When the Taitung County Government controversially relocated the city train station approximately 5 km west from the city center in June 1982 — leveling a thousands-year-old Aboriginal settlement in the process — the whole area fell into decline.
The creation of a garden-lined pedestrian pathway which connected Taitung’s old train station (located relatively close to Tiehua) with several back streets along which the trainline used to pass, the area was slowly revitalized and a renovated Tiehua threw its doors open to the public in late July 2010.
However, despite its colorful history, Tiehua is now facing an uncertain future. With a three-year-long government subsidy running to its natural end in the middle of July the music venue is having to actively generate new revenue streams.
“We have to work very hard now,” says Fong. “We need to get more ideas and let people know that we are not just about music, that we host theatrical performances, workshops, art exhibitions. We now need to use our energy and make some sacrifices so that Tiehua can really ‘explode’ on the map.”
Talk of explosions and sacrifices may sound far-fetched but for Fong — an ex-Special Forces operative who spent 20 years training police SWAT teams in anti-hijack, urban battle tactics — it may not be that far from reality.
The long-haired aging action man and his team now face an uphill task as they seek to turn the music village into something new, but the weekend farmers’ market has grown deep roots and the dedicated team of staff based at the venue have been making inroads in their drive to widen the venue’s appeal.
Darkness has now enshrouded Taitung and a four-piece band are charming their audience from Tiehua’s main-stage podium set among a thick bank of broad-leaved trees.
The venue, alive with a rainbow of tiny LED lights, wears a festival charm and groups of people lounge on rugs thrown around the lawn while giggling children run in circles nearby. A relaxed street dog cleans itself in a corner to complete the picture. Wednesday nights never felt so relaxed.
Throughout late May, Tiehua Music Village is hosting a range of acts with the weekends stacked up with Aboriginal entertainers.
Savakan perform on Saturday and this youthful five-piece will bring their ballady, rock-heavy style to the popular night spot. They are big, they are brash — but they can be sentimental too.
The minimalist Xi-Wu / Big & Small (璽伍/大大&小小) take center stage on May 24 and the vocal-led guitar and djembe drum trio are due to croon to a loyal and local fan base throughout the evening.
Salama, which means “Play Hard,” fully justify their title. This four, and sometimes five, member crew rocked Taitung’s October 2012 Open Surf competition hosted in Donghe Township (東河) and the Aboriginal crew bring their energetic, rock-driven sounds to Tiehua on May 25.
The last weekend in May sees talented Aboriginal singer Seize (希紫) take the limelight. A powerful vocalist — backed by percussion and acoustic musicians — Seize breathes life into several classic, traditional Aboriginal songs and exudes a charm which she uses to great effect in her rapport with an often-entranced crowd. Seize performs on Friday, May 31.