Aboriginal R&B boy band B2M are used to people dancing at their concerts, but the enthusiasm of audiences in Taiwan took them by surprise.
All seven members of B2M — which stands for Bathurst to Melville — hail from the Tiwi Islands. They have just returned from headlining the Pulima Art Festival (Pulima藝術節2016), where audiences responded to their catchy songs with overwhelming gusto.
Band member Jeffrey Simon says it was “a real eye-opener” connecting with other indigenous people and cultures. The band has toured East Timor, Bali and Shanghai, but this was their first trip to Taiwan.
Photo courtesy of Skinnyfish Music Australia
“When we first went to East Timor we felt the connection to home, when we met other indigenous people, in the way they embraced us and our music. Taiwan was very similar, we found a lot of similarities in our cultures,” Simon tells Guardian Australia.
“Like, they couldn’t talk to their sisters, and we can’t talk to our sisters or mothers-in-law. The way they did their welcome to country with us was very similar ... I think the highlight was when we saw the dancers from a certain tribe from Taiwan and how they passed down their tradition to the young ones,” he says.
B2M’s songs are known for their positive messages around alcohol and drugs, but in Taiwan, the band opted for a set list that was markedly different to what they usually play in Australia, bringing out more traditional chants and more culture, Simon says.
The band got everyone up and dancing at the festival, despite warnings that Kaohsiung crowds might be a little less active, says Louise Partos, executive director of touring agency Artback NT.
There was a great connection with smaller indigenous communities that they visited in the days after the festival, where “people got up and danced straight away,” Partos says.
“Both B2M and that community performed their welcome songs and dances and thank you songs and dances. It was just beautiful to see how linked those communities were in terms of ceremonial practices and respecting each other,” Partos says. “There was a building of relationships and a recognition of oneness that I hadn’t expected.”
The Taiwan trip inspired B2M’s new venture, Project Songlines, which involves mixing traditional ancient Tiwi chants with those of other indigenous cultures.
“If you bring these two ancient cultures together and mix them into a dance pop R&B mix and make it so catchy, if you’re going to play it in a nightclub, you’ll definitely connect with it,” Simon says. “But it’s got a tribal feel to it so you want to start stomping your feet and dancing.”
In order to use the traditional chants, the band had to seek permission from Tiwi elders, but Simon says “they’re all for it.”
“It’s amazing to see they understand that for our culture to survive in the new world it needs to be recorded and passed down in a different way. And from what we heard in Taiwan it’s very similar there. But they are so into it, and very excited about it,” he says.
B2M’s positive messages around drugs and alcohol are nevertheless very important to them.
“It’s such a huge problem, and not just for us,” Simon says. “Hopefully someone can take over or pick up on it, because there needs to be songs about that on mainstream radio.”
The band has a big following, particularly among Indigenous Australian communities, and feels a responsibility to the younger generations.
“We’re all fathers in the band, and kids are our main passion,” Simon says. “Back in 2004 there was time when we almost broke up but the kids are the ones that kept us going. The kids are now over the age of 18 and they’ve been singing our songs since they were like 12 years old.”
The band is “so not into love songs,” he says.
“On mainstream radio there’s a lot of songs about the booty and stuff, which is great, but we understand that as a band we don’t have long. Bands do break up eventually so we try to make as much impact as we can in the time we’ve got,” he says.
B2M TAIWAN TOUR
Nov. 4 Appeared at the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts as part of the Pulima Festival
Nov. 6 Visited Taiwan Indigenous Peoples Cultural Park in Pingtung Count
Nov. 7 Performed and gave a workshop at Taitung’s Tie Hua Village
Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 Traveled to Hualien County and sang at the Presbyterian Church in Fuli and at National Dong Hua University
Nov. 12 Performed at the International Pavilion of Indigenous Arts and Cultures in Taipei
Source: Australian Office, Taipei
In Taiwan’s rural lowlands, it’s a common sight at this time of year. Having cleared and plowed their fields, farmers intending to grow pineapples, strawberries or certain other crops, roll lengths of thin black plastic across the ground. To keep the film in place, soil is piled over the edges. Plastic sheeting — or plastic mulch, as it’s often called — makes farmers’ lives easier by suppressing unwanted foliage that might otherwise crowd out their crops. As an inexpensive labor-saving technique, its appeal is obvious. Taiwan’s farmers are getting old (in 2014, their mean age was 62 years), and finding
Foreign viewers at the Cannes premiere of Moneyboys (金錢男孩) may not have noticed the glaring incongruities that persist through the movie, but Taiwanese viewers certainly will. They’re apparent to the point that it’s difficult to enjoy the movie. First of all, the entire film is obviously shot in Taiwan, but the plot is set in fictional locales in southern China, with most secondary characters, passersby and television announcers speaking in Beijing-accented Mandarin. This melancholy tale revolves around gay sex workers in China and the unique challenges they face, especially regarding traditional expectations, including marriage, and the large-scale rural-to-urban migration of
My goals were straightforward. I’d ride my motorcycle from my home in Tainan along back-country roads into Kaohsiung’s Tianliao (田寮) and Cishan (旗山) districts, then loop back through Yanchao (燕巢). I had a short list of places I wanted to visit along the way, and I was confident I’d stumble across a few more points of interest. Turning off Provincial Highway 19A (19甲), I veered northeast on Tainan Local Road 163 (南163) until I saw a sign for Daping (大坪). Like 163, this second (and apparently unnumbered) road turned out to be a gently undulating rural delight. I passed a few
Nov. 29 to Dec. 5 Every time Chu Chen (朱震) flew deep into enemy territory, he knew there was a good chance he wasn’t coming back. With two-thirds of the Black Bat Squadron — 148 members — perishing between 1953 and 1967, the odds were not on his side. Chu had several brushes with death during his six years with the CIA-supported Bats, once surviving only because his Chinese attacker ran out of ammunition. But he pulled through each time and completed a total of 33 missions, the squadron’s second highest. He lived to the age of 86, receiving a presidential