Fri, Mar 26, 2010 - Page 15 News List

MUSIC: In tune with the times

By David Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER


The Sun Son Theatre’s (身聲劇場) Tribal Sound Music Room is a living museum. Hundreds of instruments from across the world hang on the walls, dangle from the ceiling, hide in corners and are even part of the furniture.

Tomorrow night visitors can hear some of the venue’s collection — African drums, a two-string lute from Albania, Malaysian gongs and Native American flutes — when Sun Son’s Wild Beat (狂打樂擊) percussion group launches a series of monthly shows.

Wild Beat is an offshoot of Sun Son Theatre, a performing troupe with a penchant for tribal music and dance.

“We combine many different kinds of music, from places like Taiwan, Africa, Indonesia and Southeast Asia,” said Sun Son Theatre’s artistic director Ng Leon-son (吳忠良) in an interview at the group’s studio workshop, which is located in a sleepy riverside neighborhood of Tamsui (淡水).

Wild Beat and Sun Son’s members see themselves as nomads in a world of percussion and dance. Since forming in 1999, they have performed in countries such as Senegal, Brazil and Indonesia, returning to Taiwan with new instruments, techniques and ideas, which they then incorporate into novel performances.

“It’s using all kinds of drums to create a new kind of expression,” said Ng of Wild Beat’s music. “So, it’s not about playing the drums of a particular country. It’s more of a new style in Asian percussion.”

Wild Beat’s six members also try to put a new spin on local instruments, such as Chinese drums and the gongs associated with traditional temple and funeral music.

Taiwanese audiences tend to dismiss these instruments as “noisy,” says Ng, so Wild Beat plays them using African beats.


WHAT: Sun Son Theatre’s (身聲劇場) Wild Beat (狂打樂擊) percussion group

WHERE: Sun Son Theatre’s Tribal Sound Music Room, 36, Ln 88, Jhongjheng E Rd Sec 2, Tamsui Township, Taipei County (台北縣淡水鎮中正東路二段88巷36號)

WHEN: Tomorrow at 7:30pm. Additional shows on April 27, June 26 and July 24


GETTING THERE: Sun Son Theatre is a five-minute walk from Zhuwei MRT Station (捷運竹圍站)

DETAILS: Reservations recommended. Call Sun Son Theatre’s office at (02) 2809-5885. The Tribal Sound Music Room is open by appointment on Saturdays from 2pm to 6pm. Group inquiries for workshops are welcome. For information, call Sun Son Theatre’s office


(Note: Sun Son’s official Web site has been identified as posing a security risk)

“The effect is great,” he said. “People start to realize the sounds from [these drums] can be enjoyable.”

In addition to live shows, the Tribal Sound Music Room, which holds around 40 people, hosts educational workshops, where attendees can try out the instruments and build one of their own. Recently visitors have been building rainsticks, bean-filled tubes that imitate the sound of rain.

Many of the instruments at the Tribal Sound Music Room come from Ng’s personal collection, which he started with a simple bamboo tube drum from his native Malaysia. He decided to bring his instruments to Sun Son Theatre and create an interactive space after seeing how “excited” his friends became whenever they saw his collection.

Ng showed me one of the more unusual instruments from a trip abroad: a rattler made out of part of a horse’s skull, which he obtained from an Easter Island musician. The sound comes from slapping the skull, which shakes the teeth that are held loosely in place by wire.

It’s not as creepy as it sounds. The skull has been polished smooth and is painted with intricate patterns that resemble Aboriginal art, designs that look like the vibrant lines and colors which adorn the walls of the Tribal Music Sound Room.

“I hope this room can let people get closely acquainted with the instruments,” said Ng.


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