The Living National Treasure award was posthumously bestowed upon folk music master Chu Ting-shun (朱丁順) on Tuesday last week by the Ministry of Culture, five months after his death at age 85, to commemorate his lifetime achievements and efforts to preserve Taiwan’s musical traditions.
Chu, who passed away in December last year, was a maestro of the yueqin (月琴) or “moon lute,” and a key custodian of the Hengchun folk music style.
Described as the “blues of Taiwan,” this grassroots music style evolved over the past 200 to 300 years on the Hengchun Peninsula. Performers use the two-stringed moon lute and sing about the hardships in life and melancholy experiences. They sometimes combine improvisational lyrics and traditional tunes.
Chu’s family presented the award certificate to the Hengchun Folk Music Museum in Pingtung County’s Hengchun Township (恆春) during a ceremony on Friday last week.
The occasion also celebrated another honor for Hengchun’s folk music community, as the locally produced children’s album Listen to Our Kids Sing (聽咱的囝仔在唱歌) was recently shortlisted for a Golden Melody Award in the Best Children’s Album category.
“Our family wants to see his lifetime work of promoting Hengchun folk music continue through the future,” said Chu Chih-lin (朱誌霖), Chu Ting-shun’s eldest son.
“Even though my father has passed away, the musical seeds he left behind have sprouted and are growing vigorously,” he added, referring to Chu Yu-hsuan (朱育璿), a grandson of Chu Ting-shun, and four other local youngsters who were the main performers on the album.
The songs on the album were written and produced by Chen Li-ping (陳麗萍), chairperson of the Hengchun Folk Songs Promotion Society.
Hengchun Mayor Yeh Ming-shun (葉明順) said Chu Ting-shun had played a prominent role in the Hengchun folk music movement as a young man and spent his life promoting and teaching the music to local residents.
“In many places throughout Hengchun, such as schools, local communities and folk music promotion societies, we can see the legacy left by Chu Ting-shun. We hope this ‘Spirit of Chu Ting-shun’ will be passed on to the local youngsters and that they can do their part to promote Hengchun folk music, Yeh said.
Listen to Our Kids Sing is an important milestone for the Hengchun folk music movement, Chen said.
“The kids learned its lyrical singing style in the traditional way, with songs that deal with stories of everyday life. This was combined with an innovative musical style, and the sound of innocence is projected through the children’s singing,” she said.
“Now that it has received accolades by being shortlisted for a Golden Melody Award, this will help pave the road for the creation of a new folk music style,” she said.
“We hope to see more talented young people join us. This way we can revitalized the Hengchun folk music movement,” Chen said.