Photo Credit:fb原住民˙族委員會

Austronesian music has always been an integral part of the lives of locals in Taitung. The music carries profound cultural meanings, embodying not only an understanding of nature, ancestral spirits, and interpersonal relationships but also a condensation of life’s emotions and wisdom into a work of art.

Photo Credit:ig@hao.studio2023

The music and instruments of each tribe play an important role in daily life. The mouth harp is a commonly used instrument, with different names among the different tribal groups: the Amis call it “Ratok,” the Rukai call it “Rubaru,” and the Pinuyumayan call it “Lubal.” Usually made of bamboo or metal, it is used to express emotions or for entertainment. Additionally, the Bunun use a five-stringed instrument called the Toto-Toro, consisting of five iron strings fixed to iron nails on a wooden board, with a resonating box underneath. Its unique scales reflect songs of praise for nature. The Paiwan use vertical flutes (Laringdan) and nose flutes (Pakulalu), which are carved with traditional patterns and used for expressing love or for soothing the decapitated heads of hunted enemies. The Pinuyumayan waist bells, or signal bells, are worn by Pinuyumayan women, producing sounds during movement, which are used for making dance rhythms. The distinctive sounds of these instruments are an indispensable part of daily life, infusing vibrant colours into the everyday life of the tribal communities.

In traditional social structures, music is often used in various festivals and ceremonies, such as weddings, rituals, and hunts. Each song and each melody contain specific meanings and stories, conveying the history and values of the tribes. For example, the Bunun tribe is famous for its unique polyphonic singing, performing songs such as the “Prayer for a Millet Harvest” (Pasibutbut) before sowing, the “Cheering Sound” (Malastapang) for celebrating war achievements, and the songs of the “Ear Shooting Festival” (Marasitionmal), all of which express their reverence for hunting and harvest. The Pinuyumayan use a lyrical form that features repeated rhyming words and sounds at the beginning of phrases for chanting the rhythms of life. During the Amis harvest festival, music and dance are an integral part of the celebrations, enhancing unity and cooperation among the tribe members. These musical activities during festivals and ceremonies are not only a continuation of tradition but also an important means of emotional exchange among the tribespeople.

Taitung’s Austronesian music holds significant local importance and serves as a cultural exchange bridge between Taiwan and the international community through various cultural events and music festivals. One such event, the annual Taiwan PASIWALI Festival in Taitung, has become a crucial platform for showcasing Austronesian music and Indigenous culture, attracting over 60,000 attendees last year. The festival features traditional Indigenous music performances as well as  fusion works that blend modern and traditional music, highlighting the rich diversity and unique charm of Austronesian music. This fosters deeper understanding and appreciation of Taitung’s Indigenous culture among a wider audience.

Austronesian music is a cultural treasure of Taitung, embedded with cultural meanings and emotional wisdom. Through the music, Taitung showcases its unique cultural charm to the world and builds a bridge for international exchange. In the future, as more people come to know and love Austronesian music, the sounds of this region will reverberate around the world, becoming an important symbol of our cultural diversity. We look forward to more music enthusiasts hearing the sounds of this land, immersing themselves in the rich heritage of Taitung’s Indigenous music scene, and contributing to the preservation of this precious culture.