Until about three weeks ago, Huang Jung-jen (黃詠仁) and Lin Chen-hung (林宸弘) had little knowledge of each other’s musical genres.
Huang, who is studying Western classical composition at Aletheia University in Tamsui, is an avid jazz guitarist; Lin is a member of the Nanbeixuan (南北軒) traditional beiguan ensemble that has been a fixture of the area for 102 years.
Beiguan (北管) is a type of traditional music often heard at temple festivals and in Peking Opera.
Photo courtesy of Aletheia University Jazz Project
“The only exposure to Beiguan music we had in school was in a music history class,” Huang says.
On Sunday, the Aletheia University Jazz Project will join forces with National Taiwan University’s Jazz Club and Nanbeixuan to celebrate the Earth God’s birthday on Dengkong Borough Fude Temple’s (鄧公里福德宮) performance stage.
For the past three years, the Jazz Project held one show per year for family and friends, and this is their first time branching out. Sunday’s show was conceived as part of Aletheia music management major Hsieh Shang-hsiu’s (謝尚修) graduation thesis, where he seeks to connect his passion for jazz music to Tamsui’s local culture. Located in a bustling night market a short walk from the Tamsui MRT station, the Fude Temple is familiar to most locals, especially their annual summer procession.
Photo courtesy of Aletheia University Jazz Project
“Tamsui residents must have at least passed by the procession at some point,” Hsieh says. “Beiguan music is familiar to their ears. By contrast, jazz is an outsider genre.”
Huang cites indie bands who incorporate Taiwanese temple music, such as indie rock band Zenkwun (神棍) and taike rockers Sorry Youth (拍謝少年), as a factor for the growing interest in traditional sounds among young people. Lin has also worked with rock bands, but he says jazz is trickier due to the bigger difference in time signatures and rhythmic styles as well as scales.
Huang and Hsieh listened to Beiguan music attentively for the first time at Nanbeixuan’s practice space adjacent to the temple, where they were given two songs to try rearranging. They couldn’t read the Beiguan score, so they had to record the music live and transcribe it themselves, then back-transcribe it into Beiguan score.
Photo: Han Cheung, Taipei Times
Huang treated the Beiguan parts as the “head” in jazz, which is the beginning and main melody for a composition, setting it to funk, swing and Latin beats.
“From the little exposure we’ve had, all I can do is apply the traditional elements to jazz. But I want to delve deeper.”
On the day of the performance, the musicians will bring offerings for the Earth God and pray for a successful show. Hsieh, who hails from Sansia (三峽), home to the famous Zushih Temple (清水祖師廟), has never done this on his own.
“My mom would tell me how many incense sticks to light and where to put them,” he says. “When I went back yesterday, I paused to look at the temple for a bit. I feel that I haven’t really tried to understand the place that I thought was familiar to me.”
Jazz at Fude Temple
When: Sunday from 6:30pm to 8pm
Where: Tamsui Fude Temple, 15-5 Renai St, Tamsui Dist, New Taipei City (新北市淡水區仁愛街15-5號)
On the Net: www.facebook.com/events
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