Fri, Apr 12, 2019 - Page 14 News List

Highlight: The National Theater for a national treasure

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Puyuma singer-songwriter Sangpuy Katatepan is headlining three concerts at the National Theater in Taipei this weekend as part of the Taiwan International Festival of Arts.

Photo courtesy of Sangpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw

Puyuma singer-songwriter Sangpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw will headline three concerts at the National Theater in Taipei this weekend as part of the Taiwan International Festival of Arts (TIFA).

Sangpuy was last heard, but not seen, at the theater in late November 2017 when Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (雲門舞集) performed artistic director Lin Hwai-min’s (林懷民) Formosa (關於島嶼), for which he provided part of the soundscape.

The multiple Golden Melody Award winner from Taitung County’s Nanwang Village (南王) — also known as Katratripul, or Jhihben (知本) — has gained renown for blending ancient tunes with modern melodies, as well as his own music, which he sings in the Pinuyumayan language.

He has been a fixture at music festivals in Taiwan and abroad since his 2012 debut album Dalan, which won him Best Aboriginal Singer award the following year, joining a long list of musicians from his home village who have taken home Golden Melody Awards. In 2017, he scooped Album of the Year, Best Vocalist-Aboriginal Language and Best Vocal Recording Album Award for Yaangad.

However, Sangpuy has shunned the notion of becoming a superstar; for him the music is a way of connecting with his ancestors and helping ensure Puyuma culture and language will live on, which includes making many of his own instruments.

While he has kept much of this weekend’s program under wraps — including the names of the guest artists who will be joining him — Sangpuy said the three main themes are roots, trunks and leaves: the roots of life, the solidity of a mother’s love, which is like a tree’s trunk and the celebration of life that are a tree’s branches and leaves.

He said the goal is to bring Taipei audiences to the mountains and forests that are the native land of Taiwan’s Aboriginals, and croon the stories of their ancestors. Taiwan has a lot of talent, and a lot of people with stories to share, he said.

The music will be a mix of old songs and newer ones, and new arrangements of older pieces, he said after a news conference yesterday.

The pressure to fill the National Theater for three shows has been great, but he said he was happy that as of yesterday about 90 percent of the tickets have been sold.

It is great to see the TIFA programmers willing to give so much stage time to Sangpuy, as in recent years indigenous performers appear to have gotten short shrift. Ara Kimbo gave one show with friends at the National Concert Hall as part of last year’s TIFA, the Taiwu Ancient Ballads Troupe and Puljetji Tribe (泰武古謠傳唱與佳興部落) gave two concerts the year before, Djanav Zengror of the Paiwan tribe and Umav Balalavi of the Bunun tribe gave one concert in the Recital Hall in 2016, while in 2015 there was a single concert by Suming, which mixed Amis and Okinawan music.

The programmers actually shifted Sangpuy to the National Theater from the National Concert Hall because they thought the former, with 1,498 seats, would be easier to fill than the latter, which has 2,064.

They were right. There are still seats for tonight and tomorrow’s concerts, but Sunday has less than 16 seats as of press time last night.

■ Tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30pm at National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

■ Remaining tickets are NT$800 to NT$1,600, available at the NTCH box offices, Eslite ticket booths, online at and convenience store ticket kiosks

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