Thu, Sep 19, 2019 - Page 4 News List

New ways to save cultural heritage

By Chen Hsien-yi and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

High-school student Ya-mei uses tweezers to repair a cassette of her grandmother singing at a workshop in Taitung County organized by Tainan National University of the Arts’ Graduate Institute of Documentary and Film Archiving in an undated photograph.

Photo copied by Chen Hsien-i, Taipei Times

Tainan National University of the Arts is running home video-and-audio tape repair workshops in Aboriginal communities to save recordings of traditional songs and dances from damaged cassettes.

A high-school student nicknamed Ya-mei (亞美), 17, who hails from the Beinan community of Katratripulr in Taitung County, joined the workshop to restore the tapes her grandmother left her as an heirloom.

Ya-mei said her grandmother loved to sing, but fell ill soon after she was born. She asked Ya-mei’s mother to record the songs for her grandchildren to listen to after she died.

As a child, she listened to her grandmother’s singing when she went to bed and her mother said the songs always put her and her little brother Sheng-chieh (盛捷) to sleep, Ya-mei said.

She remembered little of her grandmother and was not told whose voice it was on the tapes until she was 11 years old, but she herself became a singer and is involved in several efforts to collect traditional songs, she said.

“Every time I win an award at an Aboriginal song contest, my mother shares the news with everyone and tells them I got my good voice from my grandmother,” Ya-mei said.

During a routine house cleaning, she discovered the long-forgotten cassettes, which to her disappointment were moldy and unplayable, Ya-mei said.

As soon as the university opened a workshop near their home, she and her brother took the cassettes to show the staff.

After restoring five of the cassettes under professional guidance, she brought the tapes back home and played it on her mother’s old tape recorder, with her grandmother’s voice moving the family to tears, she said.

Uki Bauki, who studies at the university’s Graduate Institute of Documentary and Film Archiving, said the project aims to preserve Aboriginal music as cultural heritage.

“Video and cassette tapes are important records of culture and life,” he said. “As new technology supplants the old, we should take care that our memories are not erased in the process.”

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