Fri, Jan 14, 2005 - Page 13 News List

Voice of a people sings for the nation

Puyuma songstress Samingad will represent Taiwan at the 2005 MIDEM conference -- the first time Taiwan has been invited to perform at the event that draws the world's top music-industry professionals to Cannes, France, each year

By David Momphard  /  STAFF REPORTER

In the oral tradition of the Puyuma, in Taitung's Nanwang Village, women often play the role of the sage, imparting timeless wisdom to the children and even the men of the tribe. Puyuma singer Samingad (紀曉君) knows just how highly the elder women of her tribe are respected; she's seen the respect given her grandmothers and, despite her youth, she's getting her own fair share of it, too.

At just 27, Samingad has already earned a Golden Melody Award for Best Newcomer, and sang the National Anthem at last year's presidential inauguration. Her latest honor comes next week, when she'll set out for Cannes, France, to represent the nation at the high-profile international music-industry conference and market known as MIDEM. Though Taiwan has participated in the event in the past, this is the first year it has been asked to arrange a performance.

To celebrate the occasion, and to give all of us in Taiwan a preview of her Cannes performance, Samingad will perform tonight at Ximending's Red Theater.

"Of course it's an honor," Samingad told the Taipei Times, "but I feel like there's also a lot of responsibility to do well, both for Taiwan and for the Puyuma people."

In a way, she's has spent all her life preparing for next week's gig. Samingad, whose name means "without equal" was born into a family of musicians and learned to sing sitting on her grandmother's knee. She won her Golden Melody Award in 2000 for her album, Voices of the Puyuma (太 原的聲音). Her uncle, Taiwan's "singing policeman," Pau-dull (陳建年), also won a Golden Melody Award for Best Songwriter for penning one of the tracks on that album, Fairy Tale (神話).

Samingad stands out not only for the strength of her voice, but for composing the majority of her music in her native Puyuma language. After winning her Golden Melody Award, she returned to Taitung to visit her mumu, the grandmother who taught her to sing, to continue learning traditional Puyuma songs. Two years later, her efforts earned her a second Golden Melody nomination, this time as the Best Non-Chinese Female Vocalist for her album Wild Fire, Spring Wind (野火春風).

The name Puyuma means "solidarity" and Samingad says she owes her success not only to the members of her family, but to her extended Puyuma family and the several Aboriginal musicians with whom she grew up.

She has for years fronted the band A-minor, or the AM Band (Am樂團), a group of Aboriginal musicians from Southern Taiwan formed in 1993 and named for the chord popular in Aboriginal music.

The band struggled for years playing clubs and pubs in Taipei, while Samingad supported herself working odd jobs.

One of those jobs was waiting tables at an Aboriginal bar in Taipei called Driftwood Cafe, where she would fill in for other musicians who had cancelled. She was soon "discovered" and her first album, Voice of the Puyuma, was released.

A-minor also inked their first deal and pressed their first CD, A-minor: Until the Sunrise (Am到天亮). Though it has changed lineup over the years, "AM Family," as the band is known, are frequent performers in China and Japan -- the result of a critically acclaimed performance in Japan in 1999 with Taiwan's Difand Duana, of Enigma's Return to Innocence fame.

Asked if the success she's enjoyed has changed her life, Samingad ruminates before answering.

"Some things are different," she says, "but much of my life -- who I am -- is the same."

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