Alice Takewatan (林秋妹) contemplated an Aboriginal sculpture symbolizing a shattered earth as she waited for Amis (阿美) musicians to respond to her entreaties to play at a music festival.
“I wanted them to come [to the concert] and sing but they said, ‘No, that’s our song and we don’t want to sing it for anyone else,’” said Takewatan, who is from the Bunun (布農) tribe. “So I pointed to [the sculpture] and said the earth is broken and that this song is necessary to put it back together,” she said.
The elderly musicians eventually relented and agreed to sing a sacred song in front of an audience for the first time ever as part of Soaring Melodies: An Evening of Indigenous Song and Dance, a three-hour concert to be held on Sunday as part of the 2008 World Summit of Indigenous Cultures.
The summit, organized by Taiwan Indigenous Cultural Enterprise Development Association (TICEDA) — of which Takewatan is chairwoman — draws together indigenous peoples from around the world for five days of seminars, lectures, a concert and tour of Taiwan’s Aboriginal villages. The summit begins tomorrow.
Takewatan said the musical performance has two purposes: to expose local audiences to Taiwan’s Aboriginal culture; and to accustom Aborigines to performing in front of an audience.
“When we are with the tribe, there is no audience because we just perform directly for the earth and directly for ourselves. So this is a way for us to show [tribal members] how to perform in front of an audience,” she said.
Sunday night’s concert has three parts. The first, Voices of the Ancestors, features Aboriginal stories and legends told through song. Indigenous peoples participating in the summit from other countries are also encouraged to take the stage and share songs from their tribes.
What: Three Suns and Two Moons — Tour to Taiwan’s Indigenous Villages
Where: Southern and southeastern Taiwan
When: April 15 to April 17
Tickets: NT$4,500 for two nights and three days includes accommodation and meals. To register, visit indigenous.pristine.net and click on the “Invitation” link
Tales of the Mountains and the Seas is the second theme and is a selection of Aboriginal songs, updated and played by Taiwanese musicians who have studied in the West. Takegawan hopes including non-Aboriginal Taiwanese musicians in the program will make local audiences more interested in Aboriginal music.
Rounding out the concert is Melody of Flight, which combines song with dance and is followed by an Aboriginal fashion show.
After the concert there is a three-day, two-night tour of Aboriginal villages. The tour, called Three Suns and Two Moons — Tour to Taiwan’s Indigenous Villages (三個太陽兩個月亮 — 福爾摩沙部落巡禮), offers the chance to experience Aboriginal culture in a more laid-back setting. The tour is open to the public.
“My wish is that when people come to Taiwan they’ll see these different tribes and how they live and see the relationship these tribes have with nature,” she said.
On the itinerary for the first day: a visit to southern Taiwan’s Paiwan (排灣) and Rukai (魯凱) tribal villages, with a stop at a traditional glass bead studio that will shed light on the social hierarchies of these tribes.
“The Paiwan and the Rukai have a royalty system that is not political but cultural,” Takewatan said. “The cultural elements of indigenous communities are not preserved in books because they cannot read, but are encoded in their songs and their dances. This is preserved through their weaving, carving and singing.”
Taitung’s National Museum of Prehistory (國立臺灣史前文化博物館), Taitung Hunter School (台東獵人學校) and Mountain Boar University (山豬大學) make up the second day’s itinerary. Participants will see how hunting knowledge is passed from generation to generation, as well as how elders pass on their tribe’s history and ways of thinking through storytelling.