By Guest Contributor Ciarrai Donnelly
It’s not every day that you hear a nose flute on 5th avenue, but walking through the Upper East Side towards Central Park on a hot Saturday evening, the soft and distinct sound washes over me, and I know I’m in the right place. July 29th marked the second of SummerStage’s Taiwanese Waves: a showcase of Taiwanese musical artists on Central Park’s Rumsey Field stage (the first of which, in 2016, broke SummerStage’s 30 year attendance record). 2017 boasts a completely new lineup of four Taiwanese artists from different ends of the music world: punk, indie folk, and aboriginal music. Not only are the artists performing in completely different genres, but also in completely different languages: Puyuma, Taiwanese, and Mandarin. As someone who knows virtually nothing about Taiwanese culture, I’m certainly excited to see the multitudes of talent that tonight has to offer.
The crowd was hushed when I entered, mesmerized by our first performer: Sangpuy. Sangpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw is a prolific and accomplished musician with 2 studio albums, the most recent of which (Yaangad) he received Album of the Year, the most prestigious award of the Golden Melody Awards (among others, he also took home Best Vocalist [aboriginal] and Best Vocal Recording Album). He sings in the language of the Pinuyumayan people, an indigenous group of Taiwan, from whom Sangpuy is descended. The audience was completely captivated; both solemn and joyful, soft and strong, old and new, Sangpuy’s vocals take us somewhere else. I won’t be the first (or last) to call Sangpuy’s voice profound or penetrating, but it’s no exaggeration. It’s easy to understand his success, he’s as charming as his voice is stunning. Between his soulful melodies, he joked and talked with the audience, encouraging them to laugh and sing along. I don’t understand a word (aside from the universal “woohoo”) but by the end I sang along too. He brings Taiwanese aboriginal music into Central Park with ease, seamlessly blending traditional vocals and an ancient language with modern musical arrangements with complete success. He departed to great applause as his last notes hung in the air.
It's been my dream since I started getting to know more about Chinese music to be able to live in Taipei, and now I'm finally going to be able to! Starting from the 11th of February, I will be staying in Taipei for 139 days and hope to share parts of my experiences that may be helpful with readers everywhere! (Feb 2014)