Kulintang is a traditional Southeast Asian musical form built around playing a series of gongs and drums. I wasn’t familiar with the form before hearing “Divine”, the first single from Toronto-based five-piece, Pantayo. The band describes their upcoming full-length self-titled debut album as “an audio diary of how [Pantayo] has grown together as writers and performers” and showcases their diverse musical influences as queer diasporic Filipinas.
With no prior knowledge of kulintang, I wouldn’t have noticed how Pantayo deconstructs their traditional musical form and reassembles it with contemporary pop influences, but I certainly feel it. “Divine” is deeply devotional and reminds me of a mediational hymn. The percussive kulintang elements punctuate the song’s movement and flow; an atonal heartbeat dictating each deep inhale and tension releasing exhale. The lyrics, sung by keyboardist and vocalist Eirene Cloma, circle around the singular line “Our love is divine”, with “love” standing in for any number of other nouns: community; friendship; family; performance; expression; experience. Like a mantra, the words are both an affirmation and an incantation, working together with Pantayo’s smooth — and downright sexy — music to make the intangible real.