The Taiwan Original Music Awards, now in it ninth year, honored aspiring musicians creating works in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), Hakka and Aboriginal languages yesterday at the CPC Building in Taipei.
Co-organized by the Ministry of Culture, Hakka Affairs Council and Council of Indigenous People, the annual event is designed to serve as a platform to encourage young talent to make music using their native tongues. Many bands and musicians have performed at the awards before they broke into the mainstream, such as Matzka (瑪斯卡樂團) of the Paiwan tribe and Amis singer-songwriter Suming (舒米恩).
With its emphasis on originality and diversity, the awards have also attracted well-known names in music circles, including Mando-pop veteran Christine Hsu (許景淳), seasoned songstress Shino (林曉培) and celebrated jazz singer Emily Guan (官靈芝) to take part in previous editions.
This year, 30 nominees in three language-based categories were drawn from 253 entries by a five-member panel of judges. Entries are limited to works not yet released.
Absent big-name stars and celebrities, the six-hour-long awards ceremony focused on the music itself, with each nominee given a chance to perform songs and talk about their music. Meanwhile, the judges engaged in a final round of meetings to take into account the live performances and delivered their verdicts at the end of the ceremony.
Aboriginal musicians were the first ones to take to the stage at yesterday’s event. The 10 nominated groups and musicians performed music that ranged from a lullaby Lin I-chun (林怡君), a young Atayal mother, sings to her two babies every day and a song based on Paiwan mythology sung by a group of teachers and students from Daniao Primary School in Taitung to a lyrical melody calling youngsters to return home by Ado Kalitaing Pacidal of the Amis tribe.
“Aboriginal youths always have to leave home at a certain age, whether to study or to work. We get lonely in cities, and when I feel lonely, I sing,” Ado Kalitaing Pacidal said.
Meanwhile, a rock outfit led by Paiwan songwriter and singer Kao Chung-chieh (高仲杰) performed a powerful song about warriors that Kao said can be anyone who has love and passion for his or her land and culture. From the Beinan tribe, Young Mu-ren (楊慕仁) shared with audiences his childhood memory of his grandparents along with his singing prowess.
“It is difficult to write music in my native tongue. The meaning of one sentence would be completely different if one word is omitted,” Young said. “I spent lots of time learning the language correctly with my grandparents. It is like passing down the tradition.“
Kao was the biggest winner in the Aboriginal category, taking first place and picking up the Best Live Performance Award. In the Hakka category, Huang Wei-chieh (黃瑋傑) won first place, while musician duo Chou I-chun (周怡君) and Chiu Lien-chin (邱廉欽) took the top accolades in the Hoklo division.
The first-place winner in each category is awarded a cash prize of NT$300,000, the second place winner a cash prize of NT$200,000 and the third place winner a cash prize of NT$100,000.
Prize money aside, the organizers will make music videos for the winning works, while concerts featuring the newly awarded musicians are scheduled to be held on the pedestrian square near the Shin Kong Mitukoshi department store in Taipei’s Xinyi District (信義) on Sept. 22.