Thu, Sep 20, 2018 - Page 13 News List

A focus on folk — and songwriters

The Migration Music Festival features just two concerts this year, with Hakka singer Huang Wei-jie and Indonesia’s Silampukau on Saturday afternoon and the Muddy Basin Ramblers in the evening

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

The Muddy Basin Ramblers will perform Saturday night at Zhongshan Hall as part of the Migration Music Festival.

Photo courtesy of TC Lin

This year’s edition of the Migration Music Festival is a “mini festival,” but its two concerts at Taipei’s Zhongshan Hall on Saturday are still likely to pack quite a punch.

Since the independent record label Trees Music and Art (大大樹音樂圖像) launched the festival in 2001, it has become an annual highlight for folk and world music fans, although it has suffered the usual growing pains of sponsorship and locations issues, and now alternates years with a big festival and a mini version.

Trees Music and Art artistic director Chung She-fong (鍾適芳) has been the prime mover and shaker behind the festival since its beginning. She said they started doing a smaller version four years ago after the organizers began to also work on documentary films and collaborate on a documentary film festival.

“We thought of doing the festival just every two years, but the feedback was a strong ‘no’ and we also got offers from other festivals to collaborate, so we decided to alternate years with a mini-festival to save some energy,” Chung said yesterday.

The mini-festivals also seek to capture the intimate feel of the early years, of small music gatherings.

She said starts planning for each year’s festival with an idea or topic, be it a dialogue or something linked to what is happening in the world.

“This year it is folk songs because I think the world is very chaotic. Folk songs, especially those from the 1960s were topical songs, a response to problems and issues in the world. I miss this link very much … I miss the stories,” she said.

So she went looking for storytellers who could develop the theme of “who’s that singing folk songs?”

The artists chosen for the shows and the workshops come from several countries, but they write and perform songs about the land, migration, environmental issues and society today: Taiwanese singer-songwriter Huang Wei-jie (黃瑋傑), the Indonesian duo of Eki Tresnowening and Kharis Junandharu, who perform as Silampukau, and Taipei’s own Muddy Basin Ramblers, a seven-strong group from the US and the UK.

Event Notes

WHAT: Migration Music Festival

WHEN: Saturday at 2:30 pm and 7pm

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: Single ticket NT$600, one-day pass NT$1,000; available online at, at ArtsTicket outlets, convenience store ticket kiosks or at the door


Chung said that while the Migration Festival organizers have collaborated with many Indonesian artists and festivals, she first heard of Silampukau after one of her colleagues went on a field trip to Indonesia and brought back one of their CDs.

She was impressed by the album cover, and then, after another colleague translated the song lyrics, the power of their songs.

“Their melodies are so beautiful, but the songs are not about paradise, but about poverty, about the migration from rural areas to the cities,” she said. “I was shocked by how they convey the darkness with such beautiful language. The simplicity of their music gives it the power.”

Eki and Kharis hail from Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, which has been the main inspiration for their work, and have a big following in that country.

Chung said she met Huang in 2009, when he had just graduated from university and was trying to write songs.

He was inspired by Lin Sheng-xiang (林生祥), the cofounder of the protest-folk-rock band Labor Exchange (交工樂隊), who was also from what is now Kaohsiung’s Meinong District (美濃), and whose music has been credited with helping save Meinong from being destroyed by a government dam project in the 1990s.

Wanting to tell stories himself, Huang learned guitar and began, composing lyrics in Hakka, as Meinung is a predominately Hakka area.

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