Mon, Mar 25, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Hakka blues

Lo Sirong embraces the traditions of her culture’s music and infuses it with new energy

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Lo sings about female longing and desire through the eyes of a mother, wife and woman. Whether critiquing our patriarchal society in Flying Out of the Cage (飛出籠去), or extolling female liberation in Almost 50, and I’ve Only Just Begun (捱不過四五十歲定定), the singer has a distinct voice filled with strength, warmth and understanding.

Lo said her work at a hamlet in Hsinchu a few years ago left a lasting impression on her understanding of Hakka women and their place in society. There, she worked with a group of older female villagers who had spent their lives fulfilling the stereotypical role of a woman who cares for the family and works in the fields.

“On the first day of class, I asked everybody’s maiden name to draw their attention to the fact that their identity had been wrapped up in their roles as wife, mother and aunt. It was a simple gesture, but it articulates the possibility that women can be independent individuals,” Lo said. “Women’s roles aren’t fixed. I long for a time when women can be fluid, evolving and responsible for making decisions on their own terms, rather than having it decided for them by social custom.”

In Taipei, surrounded by her flowering plants, Lo seems like a child of nature. When asked why she often falls into a trance-like state while performing, she recalls a childhood memory of singing in a church and feeling part of something much larger than herself.

It was a profound experience for the musician, to whom nature has become more than a source of inspiration.

“More and more, I long to be united with nature, to become a tiny particle in the universe that sings when it feels like singing and sleeps when it feels like sleeping,” Lo said. “When you feel your place is among all things on earth, the notion of self gradually disappears and you become part of the whole.”

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