The Migration Music Festival (流浪之歌音樂節) is turning 10, and the annual Taipei world music event, which starts Friday, is celebrating by bringing back memorable performers from past editions.
Concert-goers this weekend can look forward to music from Greece, Okinawa and Mali, among other far-away places. Headlining tomorrow is Ross Daly, a UK-born musician who lives on the Greek island of Crete and specializes in the music of that region. Saturday sees the return of Okinawan music legend Takashi Hirayasu, and highly acclaimed singer and guitarist Habib Koite of Mali, who gave an intense and awe-inspiring solo performance at Migration in 2008, performs on Sunday.
Since it was started in 2001 by independent record label Trees Music and Art (大大樹音樂圖像) , Migration has become the premier event for Taiwanese fans of world music and folk.
The festival helped launch the career of one of Taiwan’s most respected contemporary singer-songwriters, Lin Sheng-xiang (林生祥), and at the same time introduced local audiences to some lesser-known but nonetheless high-caliber international performers, such as the Mongolian singer Urna Charhar-Tugchi and the Romanian gypsy ensemble Taraf de Hadouks.
Over the past decade, Migration has seen plenty of people come and go, whether it’s artists, festival volunteers and audience members. But one key figure who has been around since the early years of festival comes from a far-flung place himself.
Christoph Stoll travels to Taipei every year from his home in Cologne, Germany, to serve as Migration’s sound engineer, and he has done so since the festival’s second run in 2003. Concert-goers barely notice him, if at all, as he sits behind a life-sized control console, twisting knobs and making adjustments from the back of the room. Yet, like any sound engineer, he plays an essential role in the festival, as he controls how the musicians sound to the audience.
What: 2012 Migration Music Festival
When: Friday through Sunday
Where: Zhongshan Hall (台北市中山堂), 98 Yanping S Rd, Taipei City (台北市延平南路98號)
Admission: Tickets are NT$500 for a single performance, NT$900 for a one-day pass and NT$1,500 for a festival pass, available through NTCH ticketing or online at www.artsticket.com
On the Net: www.treesmusic.com/festival/2012mmf
Stoll, whose resume includes running sound for Jack Bruce (of legendary group Cream), Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Marc Ribot, is behind Migration’s reputation as having the best live sound of any event in Taiwan. No matter what you think of the music — the festival has hosted musicians of many different genres, from hip-hop and noisy industrial rock to large Indonesian string ensembles and obscure Scandinavian folk music — the sound at Migration is simply always good. (I say this not only as a past participating performer and volunteer for the festival, but also based on consistent praise from year to year from visiting musicians from all over the world and audience members.)
The credit for this goes to the “world-class artists and world-class gear,” Stoll says, but also to Trees Music and Art director Chung She-fong (鍾適芳) for understanding that “an artist who does not need to care about anything except his art does a better performance.”
Stoll says the festival organizers treat him with this attitude, which makes Migration a “dream job.”
“I am able to concentrate on the sound part of my work,” he wrote in an email interview with the Taipei Times last week. “I don’t have to load heavy gear, nor do I have to work physically in any way (which is usually part of the job).”
A sound engineer has perhaps the most thankless task in a concert — he or she is usually blamed for even the most minor glitches, but when things run smoothly, the praise usually goes to the musicians. For Stoll, this is part and parcel of his work, as are the long hours. He describes the typical working day at Migration as this: He arrives six hours before the venue opens for the audience, which translates as 12 to 14 hour days. Many of those hours are spent making painstaking adjustments for each performing group on stage. Each day of the festival has up to four different concerts.