Their music has been described as “heavenly music that allows one to see the mountains and hear the breeze”. The Taiwu Ancient Ballads Troupe was formed at the Taiwu Elementary School in Taiwu Township of Pingtung County, Taiwan, situated near the sacred North Dawu Mountain. Their leader, Camake Valaule, began documenting ancient songs of the region that had previously only been handed down orally.
I was lucky to participate once again to the Rainforest World Music Festival, which in its agenda showcases unique cultural and traditional music from all around the world. And this year, Taiwu Ancient Ballads Troupe was on the line up of performers thanks to a cooperation with the Taiwan Tourism Board.
I was lucky enough, after the second day press conference at the festival, to manage to stop their leader, 38 years old Camake Valaule, who allowed me a few words.
Camake is the teacher of Taiwu Elementary School in Taiwu Township, Pingtung, and he is a real indegenous people of Taiwan. As a member of the Paiwan tribe, he told me that a lot is expected from him. Apart from teaching physical education, he is in charge of teaching a wide range of subject to local students such as Mathematic, Science, Chinese language, environment and history.
Camake has a real passion in keeping his traditional culture alive, and this is reflected in the way he teaches it in the school, as he firmly believes the local children of Taiwan should get to know their culture better.
He tells me that one of the unique things about the Paiwan tribe is that “each of the ballads is tightly related with the tribe and to familys’ history. Even love songs and chants used during ceremonies follow strict rules. Singing ballads is a way to let the children learn about themselves”.
During his teaching times, he has started to form a group that plays and sings traditional music; members are children and kids from his tribe with an age range that spans from 5 to 28 years old. At the beginning of this project he has little expectations, but as the years passed their performances began to become well known to the people of Taiwan and not only.
Taiwu Ancient Ballads Troupe has been performing for over 16 years and they have so far recorded two albums, and even winning some Taiwan Award.
And as I talked to Camake through the help of his translator, Pei-Ti Huang, I realized the Paiwan people are not only amazing with their traditional culture and costumes, but are also very similar to the Dayak of Sarawak. Among the similarities are the beads, the woven clothes and also the patterns.
Being a local, I believe that studying Asian tribes’ similarities is paramount to get to know our background and to realize that we are all related, from a time when Asia was a big lump of land, long before Taiwan became an island. In fact, Camake told me that his government, the Taiwan Aboriginal Government, has already sent representatives to Sarawak to study these similarities. Impressive.
So in the end, what Japanese NHK Network said was true: the amazing voices of Paiwan’s Taiwu Ancient Ballads Troupe are amazing indeed.
Check out their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TaiwuAncientBalladsTroupe/?ref=ts&fref=ts