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Sharing Philippine values and culture through music

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If you can't say it, you can't play it.Michael Canlas of Salt Lake City can do both. In fact, he's so good on the thing that the state is paying him to teach it. Canlas has received a 1998 Folk Arts grant from the Utah Arts Council to further interest in the kulingpangan, along with the ganza, another unique Filipino instrument.

"The funny thing is, I'm actually more of a dancer," says Canlas, who has called Utah home since 1990. "I danced at the university. Now I'm the artistic director for LIKHA, a local dance group."

He is the original song-and-dance man.

As for the kulingpangan, Canlas describes the sound as similar to a xylophone, only different.

"We use the sound in combination with gongs," he says. "And we play by ear. There are no notes to read. It takes a lot of memorization because we change the music depending on what's happening on the stage at the time."

The ganza is more of a tribal instrument played with the hands. Canlas compares the sound to that of some American Indian instruments.

For some people, of course, that is pretty much all they care to know. But for those who want to follow up with more details, call Canlas at 484-5613. He's part of a performing group that plays many instruments and performs a variety of dances and numbers.

"As a group, we accept invitations to play, and we do community service," he says. "We want to share what we have, share our values and our culture. The focus of our group is education. We have quite a few returned LDS missionaries in our group, which surprises people. You don't often see white Americans playing these things."

Canlas is single, works as an emergency room nurse and has pulled together an interesting life for himself.

Still, he gets the homing instinct at times.

"I went back to the Philippines three years ago," he says. "I'd like to go again. I miss my family members there. And I miss the food."

One thing he doesn't miss is the music.

He has that right here at his fingertips.

- Folk Arts Program grants are given to guarantee that folk and artistic traditions are passed on to new generations. Grants range from $500 to $2000. For more information call 533-5760.