Fri, Oct 06, 2006 - Page 14 News List

Folk music meets activism

The Migration Music Festival is an art, film and educational experience all rolled into one. Best of all, most events are free

By Ron Brownlow  /  STAFF REPORTER

Artists from across the globe will step into each others shoes for the fifth annual Migration Music Festival.

PHOTO COURTESY OF TREES MUSIC & ART

On the afternoon of June 4, 2003, as tens of thousands filled Hong Kong's Victoria Square to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Lenny Guo (郭達年) snuck into Guangzhou with a bottle of rice wine and 128 photocopies of Chinese characters. The front man for Hong Kong agit-rock group Blackbird (黑鳥) has staged memorial concerts for Tiananmen each year in Hong Kong since the territory reverted to Chinese control. But he had something special in mind for the 14th anniversary.

“The whole point [was] to plant a piece of performance art on a territory where the commemoration of the June 4 massacre is forbidden,” Guo explained Tuesday in an e-mail exchange. At 6pm he and artist Xi Xin began pasting the characters in front of Guangzhou's Museum of Fine Arts. Xi placed flowers on the ground as Guo circled the installation. Then, as a small crowd of mostly art students gathered to watch, Xi took a swig of wine, poured the rest on the flowers, and with a shout of “For the dead!” lit them, as Guo broke into song.

Guo will perform the anthem, Shengdaruan (上大人), and explain the theories behind his blending of art with activism at the fifth annual Migration Music Festival (流浪之歌音樂節), which starts tonight and runs through Tuesday in Taipei, before heading to Chiayi for a final concert Wednesday. The festival is organized by Trees Music & Art (大大樹音樂圖像) and features local artists affiliated with that label as well as innovative folk and World Music artists from around the world. Some 5,000 people attended last year's festival, organizers said.

As in previous years, the core of the Migration festival is a series of free concerts in Taipei's Da-An Forest Park (大安森林公園). Tonight, tomorrow and Sunday's concerts start at 7:30pm. This year's theme is “crossings” (無國界), and the concerts will feature artists from different countries performing each other's music together on stage, in addition to solo performances.

Highlights of this segment include tonight's set by Golden Melody Award-winning Labor Exchange Band (交工樂隊) front man Lin Shen-xiang (林生祥), who teams up with Okinawa's Takashi Hirayusu and Ken Ohtake of Japan in a performance that the trio have been preparing since last year. Lin is tuning his guitar to “open D” for what he calls “a more tropical, ocean music sound” and the set will feature elements of Takashi's sangen, an Okinawan banjo. Songs will relate to “rice culture” and “farmer's issues,” Lin said, including Yang Ju-men (楊儒門), the so-called “rice bomber” who staged a bombing campaign to protest rice imports.

Hirayusu, who will perform solo after the set, has a powerful stage presence and is adept at mixing traditional Okinawan music with American influences.

“When you use traditional instruments in pop something is often lost,” Ohtake said. “But we have created a very unique and meaningful mix of Japanese, Taiwanese and Okinawan styles that I have not heard before in Japan.”

Leading the final free concert on Sunday is US folk singer Jim Page, who will be followed by Amis Golden Melody nominees the Betel Nuts Brothers with Taipei-based US musician David Chen playing backup.

Page, who during his 20-year career has shared the stage with artists like Bonnie Raiit, Emmylou Harris and Michelle Shocked, describes his sound as “acoustic folk with some rock sensibilities. Strongly melodic, often political.”

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