CMA Stories

6 Fun Facts About Taiwanese Musical Traditions

Join us on Sunday, February 11 for a celebration of the culture of Taiwan. There will be workshops inspired by traditional and contemporary Taiwanese arts practices accompanied by a Techno Nezha, also known as San Tai Zi, performance and workshop presented by the Taiwanese American Council of Greater New York.

Throughout the festival we will have workshops that include creating Upcycled Object Calligraphy in Fine Arts, imagining new worlds with works from Jimmy Liao in the Media Lab, exploring Taiwan’s topography in the Clay Bar, and so much more!

Taiwan has a rich Indigenous history that is still widely celebrated by its people. To learn more about Taiwan’s unique culture, check out these fun facts about its Indigenous musical traditions:

  1. Taiwan’s Indigenous roots celebrate the polyphonic sound, or a sound that is made by two different melodies playing in harmony at the same time.
  2. Indigenous to Taiwan, a twin-pipe nose flute is a flute that is used by blowing into it by both nostrils at the same time, creating a polyphonic sound.
  3. Sauniaw Tjuveljevelj is a notable contemporary Paiwan twin-pipe flute player, as she is the the youngest in Paiwan society (a Taiwanese Indigenous tribe) and the only female inheritor of this skill. Because of the expressive sound of the flute, it was believed that only men were allowed to play in order for them to express intense emotion.
  4. The flute is not the only polyphonic music within the cultures. The Bunun tribe’s pasibutbut is a song for the millet harvest sung in an eight part polyphonic harmony with six to twelve Bunun men in a circle, intercrossing their arms and facing inwards slowly shifting their feet and turning in a circle to one direction while the song progresses.
  5. The Lubuw (Mouth Harp) and the twin-pipe nose flute are the only instruments that can create polyphonic harmony. The mouth harp is especially popular with the Atayal, Amis, and Bunun tribes. Made with slivers of bamboo, sometimes copper, the player places one side in their mouth, and uses their breath while pulling on the string attached to the instrument to create sound.
  6. Contemporary musicians like Sangpuy, who uses the flute and mouth harp, Inka Mbing, who sings traditional music from the Atayal tribe, and Panai Kusui, use their music and activism to keep Taiwanese Indigenous peoples and traditions alive in Taiwan.

This program is supported, in part, by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. 

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