Jazz Fest: Pantayo

The gong-punk ensemble breaks down preconceived notions of what CanCon looks like.

“It kinda felt like cultural knowledge FOMO.”

That’s how Kat Estacio explains the feeling that became Toronto gong-punk ensemble Pantayo. The group—an all-women collective of immigrant and second-generation Filipinos—grew out of a desire to form a deeper connection with their culture and identities. And so together they dove into the history and sheet music of kulintang, a musical tradition from Southeast Asia that orbits around racks and racks of gongs.

While Pantayo’s music is rooted in history, specifically that of the Maguindanaon and T’boli people of the Philippines, Estacio says that its influences stretch across centuries and borders. “We play what feels most natural to us, which sometimes means we need to create our own rules,” says Estacio. “Hence lo-fi R&B gong punk: A mix of sounds and structures of pop music that we like the most, integrated with the kulintang music we know. So in that sense, what we do is queering performance and music, and is fundamentally punk.”

The resulting music is heady and expansive, falling somewhere between psychedelia and new age meditation. Their work with gongs feels less tied to spectacle and more to the rhythm and harmony between each instrument, a sort of symbol for the relationships built within the group itself. It’s a remarkable sound—one that Estacio says the band is looking forward to presenting at St. Matthew’s Church on Tuesday.

“As musicians, we break down preconceived notions of what cultural music sounds like, and what CanCon looks like,” says Estacio. “This is the only way that we can make this world feel like home for folks like us. And if identifying us as a gong punk band is the best way for people to understand us, then so be it.” 

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