In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, Sangpuy and other members of the Feijuyuenbao Synectics made treks on foot or by bike to bring food and aid to mountain hamlets cut off from the outside world. Viewing music as a medium for preserving and promoting Aboriginal culture, they held performances in Aboriginal communities, collected traditional songs and took part in music festivals and events on different countries.
One of the most memorable experiences, Sangpuy recalled, took place at Riddu Riddu, an annual Sami music festival held in Olmmaivaggi, Norway, that was established by a group of Sami as a means of raising awareness of their culture and that of other indigenous peoples.
“It is a small, remote town,” Sangpuy said of the place where the festival was located.
“We were there in July, in eternal daytime,” he said. “A group of tribal herders from Siberia attended. They set out on the trip along with thousands of reindeers. They arrived one and half months later, with the men’s beards growing long and thick.”
Under the arctic Sun, Sangpuy wrote a song called Dalan, or Path in the Pinuyumayan language. For him, the work he has done with the Feijuyuenbao Synectics has been inspiring both musically and in terms of raising Aboriginal awareness.
“When we performed abroad, the response to our music was so overwhelmingly positive that it has given me the strength to continue my path of traditional tribal music,” he said. “I have been singing the music passed down from our ancestors. And I create new songs as a way to respond and express my gratitude to them.”
For his self-titled debut album, released in November of last year, Sangpuy collected 14 works, half of which are ancient tunes and half that are new compositions, to reflect on life, earth and the relationship with ancient spirits and human beings. One song that the musician holds close to his heart is the Pai’lai’law, or Heroic Poem, an ancient chant Pinuyumayan elders sing with young hunters during the Great Hunting Festival in December. The voice of the elder in the song belongs to Sangpuy’s late mentor Tien Ching-liu (田清流) and was originally recorded in 2002 at the village.
To make the record, Sangpuy went back to the same spot in the mountain where he and Tien chanted a decade ago and sang to the deceased ancestors.
“It was a summery night in August with insects chirping far and near. It was exactly the same as 10 years ago,” he said. “There were just two of us, traveling through time and singing to one another.”
Sangpuy also makes traditional musical instruments, including the nose flute and the mouth harp, by hand. He said the nose flute is one of the most representative instruments used by Taiwan’s indigenous people, and the sound it produces is unique to the country. For this reason, he wrote a tune called Mother featuring the flute made of arrow bamboo as a tribute to Mother Earth and all mothers in the world.
Somewhat surprisingly, the finely crafted album, wasn’t produced by a record company, but was a collaboration among friends, supporters and a small studio which contains only three staff members, including Sangpuy. Refusing to join a label or enter music competitions for fame and money, the musician said what is important is the process, the course of things and all the people he meets along the way.