At 6:20 am on the morning of November 5th, city folks visiting Dulan village for the first time came with their sleepy eyes to take the Taroko Express (太魯閣號), the earliest train departing Taipei to Taitung. From here, they will set out on a 3.5 hour journey (Tze-Chiang [自強] 4 hours, Chu-Kuang [莒光] 7 hours). Upon arriving Taitung, there is still around 40 minutes to an hour's drive before they finally arrive at the venue of the Amis Music Festival, which is near the Sintung Sugar Factory Culture Park (新東糖廠文化園區).
Right from the start of the journey, they already experience the inconvenience of transportation just as the residents of Eastern Taiwan did, and personally feel the saying on the Amis Music Festival poster, "This is how we grew up."
Dulan Village, located in Taitung County’s Donghe Township, is the largest tribal village in the southern section of the east coast. Its land feature appear as though it is separated from Taiwan mainland starting at the middle section of the Beinan River (卑南溪), with the Amis "holy mountain” Dulan Mountain (都蘭山) alone towering by its side, facing the ocean with the mountain behind. Aside from being known for international surfing events as well as indigenous historical sites, intellectual and leisure/recreation tourism, Dulan’s total population is no more than 2,500. The elderly and young children comprised around one-third of the total population, and half of its young adults work outside the village. Like many remote countryside in Taiwan, it is facing several of the same problems, such as lack of medical care and educational resources.
Not wanting to simply passively accept grants, Suming from Dulan tribal village hopes to make a change in his hometown. Starting in 2008, he founded and organized the “Wawa No Liyal (海邊的孩子)” performing event, and continues to use earnings from the events to give back to his hometown of Dulan, funding for the Pakalungay ([巴卡路耐] Amis 12–18 year-old youth group) youth education projects, establishing traditional skills training camps; to embark on the task of rebuilding the foundation of Amis culture beyond the formal education provided in schools. Externally, through the Dulan "Tribe Excursion (都蘭部落小旅行)," people from outside the village were given the opportunity to get to know the lanes and alleys and the daily lives in Dulan. And in 2013, the Amis Music Festival was organized for the first time, starting out as a musical activity with less than a thousand participants. It has grown since then to a scale with thousands of participants this year, becoming Dulan’s event of the year.
Compared to other music festivals featuring international celebrities, flagship sound system, hundreds of bands, themed stages, promoting for the arts and culture, spectacular entertainment feast, or integrating urban tourism, cultural creative marketing, crossover experiments, investing millions of dollars in huge productions; the Amis Music Festival, located in Dulan village, a village with only two schools, has organized all its previous editions centered around what the locals nicknamed as “Dulan Arena (都蘭小巨蛋)” (Dulan Junior High School’s stadium), never partially announcing the lineup to boost ticket sale, and you will only know what the performances are when you watch them live on that day.
Even so, each year the participants not only include residents from the Eastern counties and cities, but also include many tourists from Taiwan and even abroad. It is reported that the number of participants this year have reached 3,000 people; presale tickets were all sold out, and at one point they have even limited the tickets sold at the door, overselling hundreds of tickets. With only an indoor stage, and only sharing the Amis culture, music, handicrafts, food, and other life experience, the Amis Music Festival has the same friendly, warm atmosphere as any fair events, and has its unique charm. For us living in Taiwan, it is definitely a music festival we should not miss.
When I climb atop the flag tower of Dulan Elementary School and look at the skyline of Dulan, the tallest sight I see is the Dulan Mountain; the widest, the sea of Dulan. Dulan's buildings are not tall, the top floors are mostly open, like a courtyard on the roof. In the evening, you can play a stringed instrument, sing, and drink there; and as long as the neighbors next door do not sleep, you really can be straightforward and generous to invite them to join. This relaxed and sincere feeling is the first atmosphere you will feel in the Amis Music Festival.
This year, the booth area has around 30 booths set up on the 400-meter red clay track located in the sports field in front of Dulan Junior High School’s school building. A section is set up for the booths of the age sets unique to Dulan’s Amis Indigenous population, arranged in order from Lakayakay (拉中橋), Lakenca (拉監察), Laciensi (拉千禧), Laliwil (拉立委), and so on; selling daily food and drink of the local Amis people, such as the Dulan Hot Dog (都蘭大亨堡) which is a glutinous rice with pork inside and has the added Amis aromatic herb Alianthus Prickly Ash (Tana [鳥不踏]), or the holey meat (窟窿肉), mixed Fire (雜啊 Fire), pork blood soup (血肉模糊湯); you have to personally try these special cuisine to know its taste. The booths also sell bold cuisine like bamboo tube sushi (竹筒壽司), rice in bamboo tube (竹筒飯), fresh fish soup; as well as wooden utensils, furnitures, handmade accessories and woven goods, etc. , and the earnings from these will be used for Pakalungay youth education fund.
Creative and delicacy booths abound, and everywhere is full of surprises, such as the booth area for Dulan Elementary School, Dulan Junior High School, and other local community groups, selling handmade cookies, bread; the assembly also offers Amis hair braiding, body painting, and has even invited Island Studio (愛人錄音室), a local recording studio inside the Sintung Sugar Factory (新東糖廠) which has produced works for artists including Yujun Wang (王榆鈞) , Panai (巴奈), Hao-en (昊恩), and YOYO (岑寧兒), to come over and set up booths, selling indie music we are familiar with.
Aside from ethnic style woven goods, head ornaments, bags, prints, postcards, and other handicrafts, the aroma of grilled meat on stone (石板烤肉) fills the air on site; its booth is very popular, with more than 50 bamboo number plates handed out to those waiting in line; there are even booths selling an entire grilled fish with size larger than a human face, so generous! One of the most interesting booth is the "eco-friendly juicer (環保果汁機)": visitors have to pedal like on a bicycle in order to operate the juicer to make a cup of manpower juice; you really have to hand it to the booth owner’s creativity.
Many Dulan elders who have finished their performance in the sports field or are waiting for upcoming programs each have a bottle of Taiwan beer in hand, with two fishes, and a plate of grilled meat; drinking with friends just behind the booths. Meanwhile, little children roll freely under the draping hand-dyed fabrics blowing in the wind; they play on the lawn, and fall asleep basking under the sun; which is very cozy indeed.
Aside from the stage set up inside the Dulan Arena (都蘭小巨蛋), the lawn in the middle of the sports field is also set up as an outdoor "no stage" performance area of the Amis Music Festival. Activities for the day start here: the tribal elders (部落耆老), head of the village (村長) calls on all the age sets to gather, with every local Amis people wearing their traditional clothing and gathering in front of the flag tower; the elder tribe leader (老頭目) then solemnly gives his blessing, everyone sings the "Amis national anthem” while raising the assembly flag, announcing the official kick off of the annual Amis Music Festival.
Then the local Amis people proceed to dance the traditional "Malikuda" hand holding dance as the opening ceremony; entering the dance area in order according to their age sets until everyone in the tribe, whether man, woman, young or old, hundreds of people all are holding hands and singing together, with one singing a song and the others joining in the chorus. The full dance session is completely uninterrupted, lasting for more than an hour before the youngest Pakalungay leaves the dance area. Although participation in the Malikuda dance at the opening of the assembly is restricted to local tribal people; if you would like to try the Malikuda, then in front of the Dulan Arena (都蘭小巨蛋), from the afternoon until the sun sets and the moon is out, there are continuous Malikuda open for the audience to participate. On that day, every hand holding dance attracted very large number of people to join, forming an interesting contrast with local Amis people wearing traditional clothing; the dance circle grows bigger and bigger with each dance, both the guests and hosts have a great time enjoying the fun.
At the inner and outer stage area, programs are performed alternately. Aside from young Indigenous musicians led by Suming, such as Sonlay (吳元楷) and Shan Hay (高偉勛); other performers include Fisherman's Hat N' Hunting Knife (漁夫帽獵刀) from the Ladatong (拉薩崠) age set, local groups Rock Ina (搖滾媽媽) and Mafana; even Kakeng Musical Group (旮亙樂團), Dulan Elementary School Dance Theatre (薪傳舞團), and Bulareyaung Dance Company (布拉瑞揚舞團) have brought with them songs, drama, dance numbers, and other cultural and artistic performances based on stories of the Indigenous people.
Among the performers, the youngest, which are from Dulan Elementary School and Junior High School, not only prepared welcome dance performance but also participated with ukulele class, recorder band, orchestra, and gymnastics team; welcoming guests with the abundant vigor and vitality of the new generation. Led by Dulan tribal village’s elder tribe leader (老頭目), Halo (潘進添), with members from the tribal elders (部落耆老), the "Dulan Nation’s national treasure (都蘭國國寶)" Malataw (馬拉道合唱團) singing choir chant the Amis ancient traditional songs; their singing voice is truly a harmony of nature and man, so moving it is unforgettable to this day. For Dulan tribal village, performers from Pakalungay (巴卡路耐), Ladatong (拉薩崠), Lakotang (拉古鐺), Laliwil (拉立委) and various age sets all have prepared their exclusive performances, some combining street dancing and rap, others singing traditional and folk songs; presenting the different diverse appearance of each age group.
Other program’s ethnic styles and colors are just as intense; not only have they invited Amis and various Indigenous peoples from different counties and cities in Taiwan to come and join the festivities, such as from Taipei Sanxia Junior High School Drum and Dance group (台北三峽國中峽鼓原舞隊), Taitung Paiwan Tjuwabal tribal village (台東排灣族土坂部落), Amis Torik tribal village (阿美族都歷部落), and Hualien Pangcah Kiwit tribal village (花蓮阿美族奇美部落), Ka-Bua Sua Elementary School (吉貝耍國小) and Tuban Ark Classroom (土坂方舟教室); to perform dance and Indigenous nursery rhymes action songs, sharing their tribal stories and traditions with the guests; they have even invited the Okinawa Yomitan-son Tokeshi Youth Association (沖繩讀谷村渡慶次青年會) from- for international exchange of ritual cultures.
That evening, Suming performed with little drummer Yang Ping-Yen (楊秉諺), and also performed with Huang Yu-Hsiang (黃裕翔) once again to sing "Aka pisawad (不要放棄)," the song which have swept multiple gold awards. Outlet Drift (漂流出口) made a surprise appearance, playing rock music to accompany Laliwil’s (拉立委) hand holding dance, heating up the atmosphere as though it's a special performance; Dulan’s big band is born! Bassist A-Niu (阿妞) brought a child on stage to greet everyone; and Ado (阿洛), who has been the emcee for successive years, even amused Wu-Shang (巫尚) to make him laugh.
The stage closing performance that night formally starts after Dulan tribal village representatives gave their speeches to thank everyone, then began to dance the Malikuda with audiences inside the Dulan Arena (都蘭小巨蛋); surrounded by everyone on and off stage holding hands, loudly singing together in unison; nothing can be more touching than this moment.
The next day's workshops sensibly provide Taitung, Dulan, and Amis Music Festival’s one-day tour participants more informative contents, extending more value of local tourism, just as the significance brought about by Suming’s Tribe Excursion (都蘭部落小旅行). When you sit down to learn from the Dulan residents, from doing handicrafts, from the interactions, and from the exchanges, you will gain deeper understanding of the Amis culture, and deeply feel their life style and pace that is different from those of Taiwan’s west coast.
"Doing a simple thing till it's the best it can be." is the greatest thing I have learned from going to the Amis Music Festival this time. On the site of the event, not only are the environments, processes, traffic flow, and content planning clear and systematic, the event has gained support from the surrounding schools and local communities, and community relationship management is absolutely successful; even the peripheral merchandise and visual designs look exceedingly nice. Although only on its third edition, the overall comprehensiveness and maturity level of the event is not below any large-scale music events in Taiwan, even the simple garbage collection station is especially arranged to have one tent with someone assigned to provide assistance. There is no burden of government-run events or mindset to close the case. With attention paid to small details, it has the standards of international music festival. This is a music festival where one can lay on the grass freely and take a rest, enjoy the mountain of Dulan and the sea of Dulan; play at ease and feel wholeheartedly.
Unlike the generally more solemn occasion of the Harvest Festival (豐年祭) or important rituals, in the Amis Music Festival, cultural traditions and tourism are able to strike a delicate balance; it is indeed a big party welcoming tourists to join. Next year, my vacation trip is already planned, and the 2017 Amis Music Festival is definitely where I will go to participate and enjoy to the fullest.
The Amis Music Festival is not subsidized by the government, and there is no title sponsorship from large companies. From orgnizing the performance program, raising funds, setting up booths, selling goods, to coordinating surrounding activities, all are organized solely by the Dulan tribal village. Not only does it make the youths willing to go into the tribal village, to return to the village for development; it also prevents over development by letting local tribal people take the lead on local tourism, opening possibilities for tribal autonomous development.
In this age, there are many who are eager to seize the right of discourse (話語權), yet they only sing day after day, because the sound of singing will let them know who they are. In this age, those who fight for autonomy (自主權) are not few, yet they only dance — neither servile nor overbearing, because the dance will let them remember where they come from. I think this is something the proud people who hold fast to a city or an island will never learn.
Report: Blow 吹音樂, 2016/11/22
Title: [Live] Amis Music Festival No Program Listings No Big Name Artists Only The Honest Dulan Village
Photo Credits: Blow 吹音樂, Take Rock 陳奐宇, Amis Music Festival
Original source URL: https://blow.streetvoice.com/29720