Thu, Jun 07, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Drumming up a love for Paiwan culture

LIANGSHAN ROOTS:The Feather Art of Drum and Dance troupe was created to help promote the music and dance of the Paiwan community among its young people

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Members of Feather Art of Drum and Dance play on drums designed to resemble traditional Paiwan pottery at an event on May 31 in Pingtung County.

Photo: CNA

Having attended Aboriginal cultural classes from a young age, Yuan Yuan (圓圓), a Paiwan, has dreamed of being more than just a performer, she wanted to promote culture as well, especially her own.

Yuan Yuan put her dreams in motion in 2007 when she returned to her hometown on Liangshan (涼山) in Pingtung County, putting herself in the hands of her village elders to learn traditional Paiwan music and dances.

She founded the Feather Art of Drum and Dance (羽‧擊舞藝術) percussion group in 2012, finding students from among the young people of the village or from disadvantaged families.

She began by teaching the children how to play taiko, or Japanese drums, but eventually she began designing her own drums.

Her first drum was in the shape of traditional Paiwan ceramic vases, the second is still in the design phase.

“We create new ways of performing traditional Paiwan songs,” Yuan Yuan said, adding that performing such songs on non-traditional instruments gives them new life.

Unwilling to rely on donations to keep the group going, she has been selling sausages made with red quinoa to fund its activities.

Membership in the group has fluctuated greatly over the years, from as few as five people to as many as 20 or 30, Yuan Yuan said.

Her husband, Chan Yi-du (詹依度), is also involved.

“We may not excel in studies, but we know our own culture. We must spend time in the village to learn about our own culture,” he said.

Every Thursday, the group gathers outside the village and pitches tents for the night so that they can practice their music under the stars. After practice, the couple helps the children with their homework.

Despite the couple’s reluctance to create a formal classroom, or to seek outside funding, last year they realized that a classroom had to be provided, Yuan Yuan said.

Through friends, and a petition to the New Taiwan Volunteer Group, the couple obtained funding to build a corrugated steel building in the village.

Now they are seeking help for a much larger venture: a trip to Japan to attend a percussion festival as well as a competition that they have been invited to this year.

A trip abroad would be a huge departure for Feather Art of Drum and Dance, which has only traveled with Pingtung as part of the county government’s tourism promotion efforts.

Such a trip would not only give troupe members a chance to see other performers and percussion groups, it would help them grow and mature as performers and individuals, Yuan Yuan said.

She launched a crowd-funding petition on the FlyingV platform, hoping to raise NT$260,000 by July 9 for the trip.

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