Indigenous people render songs at music festival


DESPITE not understanding the lyrics, the audience felt the emotions in the songs through Samingad Chi Hsiao-Chun’s powerful vocals.

From the melancholic Ring the Phone to the cheeky Hunting Song, the crowd acknowledged Chi’s singing prowess with thunderous applause at the recently concluded Sounds of Nature: Taiwan and Malaysia’s Aboriginal Music Festival held at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall.

Looking stunning in a blue off-shoulder dress, Chi, a Puyuma, presented folk songs in her native tongue together with the Am Family.

The band members belong to the Taiwan indigenous Austronesian people, including the Puyuma, Amis and Bunun tribes.

The name Am Family is derived from the abbreviation of “A minor chord”, which is the basis of many folk songs of the Taiwanese aborigines.

Backup singer Lin Chia-Chi, and guitarist Wu Hao-En, who is also Chi’s uncle, took over to awe the crowd with two songs.

Lin, a Paiwan, presented a tragic love song from the Rukai tribe, Love at the Little Ghost Lake, while Wu won the audience’s hearts over with a lively rendition of a Mandarin number Ye Lai Xiang (Night Jasmine).

Chi also presented Nanwang Series, a song composed by Puyuma musician Lu Sen-Bao for young Puyuma soldiers serving at the front line during the battle between Taiwanese and Chinese Communist troops on Aug 23, 1958.

The explanation shown on the screen reads, “The rice crops in our homeland have ripened. We want to build a boat from the best timber in the Puyuma mountain forest, sail to Kinmen and bring our warriors home.”

Chi said her village was dubbed the Golden Melody Village because Chi, her sister Chi Chia-ying, Wu and others have grabbed eight Golden Melody Awards during the annual Taiwanese music award ceremony.

She attributed the honour to their ancestors, who left them with the many wonderful folk songs.

The spotlight was not on the Taiwan indigenous musicians alone. Representing Malaysian orang asli was Raman Bah Tuin, who led the Chenloi Group in a performance.

He played a nose flute while fellow Semai youngsters danced and set the tempo with bamboo stems.

When emcee Chong Keat Aun walked into the crowd with a basket of the handicrafts made by the Semai people in Batu 12 Gombak, the crowd rushed forward to purchase the items. A total of RM591 was raised for the group.

Chong, who is also Ai FM’s deejay, urged the audience to understand and care for the Malaysian orang asli. He also pointed out a few similarities between the native cultures of both countries.

For instance, Chi’s tribe and a Malaysian indigenous group have a song about weeding.

Chong introduced the local version — a clip showing a group of orang asli women singing the Weeding Song while hoeing the land symbolically — before Chi belted out the Puyuma version.

The number was usually sung by the Puyuma women as they completed the task of weeding the fields.

The one-and-a-half hour performance ended on a high note with an encore, Lord, Have Mercy, performed by Chi a cappella style.

As part of the festival, an exhibition featuring photographs and handicrafts of the local natives as well as colourful costumes from the Taiwanese indigenous tribes was held.

Prior to their performance in KL, Chi and the Am Family joined Tuku Kame the Sarawakian band to perform in Kuching, Sarawak.

The event organised by the Government Information Office of the Republic of China through the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office here aimed at popularising native culture.

It also served as a cultural exchange between the indigenous people of both countries.

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