Music documentary to shine spotlight on the south

Back in January 2009 I attended a screening of the documentary “Voices from the South: Kaohsiung’s Independent Music Scene” at The Wall in Taipei. The documentary, directed by Don Quan, was about the indie music scene in Kaohsiung. The film followed the fortunes five Kaohsiung bands and four of these bands (KoOk, Orange Doll (橘娃娃), Shy Kick Apple (害羞踢蘋果) and Fire Ex (滅火器)) also performed at The Wall following the documentary screening which made it a unique experience.

Four years have now passed since Don Quan made the original documentary and he is now planning a follow up titled “Dig The New Breed: Voices From The South Part II.” I contacted Don by e-mail to ask him some questions about his new documentary project and the current state of the indie music scene in Kaohsiung. Continue reading

John Seed in Taiwan

Paiwan artist gives carving to John Seed

I have just spent ten days accompanying John Seed on a trip around Taiwan. John is an environmentalist from Australia well known for his efforts protecting rainforests around the world and also as a philosopher of Deep Ecology. I met John at the Taoyuan Airport on the morning of 28 March. We then took the high speed train to Kaohsiung where we met Dr Lin Yih-ren who arranged John’s visit to Taiwan.

Wutai in Pingtung County

After lunch in Kaohsiung we went to visit the Qimei Community University and then went on a tour around the Meinong area. By the time night fell we were high in the mountains of Pingtung County staying at the Rukai village of Wutai. The photo at the top of this post shows Paiwan artist E-tan presenting one of his works to John. We met E-tan at the Autumn Moon Cafe (秋月e店) just above the town of Sandimen. The cafe is an amazing spot and is filled with great artworks.  Continue reading

Mega Port Festival rocks Kaohsiung

Mega Port Festival in Kaohsiung

The Mega Port Festival (大港開場) was held over the weekend of 5-6 March in Kaohsiung. The festival featured a few bands from Japan and the UK and some big name Taiwanese stars in Wu Bai and Jeannie Hsieh. However, it was largely a showcase of Taiwan’s best contemporary indie bands.

Mega Port by the harbour in Kaohsiung

Bands played on three stages spread out along the side of the harbour in the Pier 2 Arts District (駁二藝術特區). The close proximity to the Love River and the harbour gave the festival a unique maritime feel. Continue reading

Free Burma concert in Kaohsiung on 19 June

Free Burma concert in Kaohsiung

Every year the Taiwan Free Burma Network (台灣自由緬甸網絡) holds a concert on Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday. This year the event will be held on Saturday 19 June in Kaohsiung’s Central Park (高雄市中央公園) from 4:00 to 6:00 pm.

The event features acoustic performances by Tonic (主音樂團) and Panai (巴奈). There will also be postcard signing for people to show their support for a free Burma. Burma is holding elections this year for the first time since 1990. However, it is likely that there will not be a free and fair vote. Aung San Suu Kyi still remains under house arrest and along with other political prisoners will probably be unable to contest the election. The elections will probably lead to a continuation of the military junta’s rule and won’t bring about democracy.

Also in Kaohsiung on Saturday night two of Taiwan’s best post-rock bands, Aphasia (阿飛西雅) and Bugs of Phonon (聲子蟲) are also playing at The Wall (駁二藝術特區) in Kaohsiung. More details at Indievox.

Visit to typhoon-affected areas of Kaohsiung County

Over the weekend I visited some of the areas affected by Typhoon Morakot in Kaohsiung County with a group of law students from Providence University. It is now more than eight months since the typhoon hit Taiwan. While there has been so much reported about the event in the media visiting these places provides a better understanding of the magnitude of the disaster.

The first part of the trip visited Liugui (六龜) and Baolai (寶來). In Liugui a Bunun elder related the history of his community. Following the typhoon they have been frustrated in their efforts to find a new place to relocate their village. Even though they have found a suitable place the government has repeatedly refused them permission to move there.

Dr Lin Yih-ren raised the important point that “moving the village” (遷村) is actually a normal part of the culture of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples. Historically they also migrated to new locations within Taiwan. However, forced relocation by the government is something different and doesn’t respect the autonomy or integrity of indigenous communities.

A satellite photo in Liugui showed the extent of landslides. These occurred in both areas were people lived and also in other places were there were no people living and no agricultural or other activities. This indicates the problem is not just related to land use, but is closely linked to the geology of the area. The landscape is very fragile in nature. Continue reading

New live music venues opening

The Taipei Times today reports on three new live music venues opening in Taipei and Kaohsiung this weekend. Lovers of live music have ever more choices of places to go.

The first and the biggest is Legacy located in the Huashan Culture Park (華山文化園區) in Taipei City. They have a great line up of bands over the next few weeks starting with Chinese rock legend Cui Jian (崔健) tonight and Wu Bai (伍佰) & China Blue and Yo La Tengo later in the month. It seems that rather than competing directly with smaller venues like The Wall, Legacy will have more well known acts with higher ticket prices. David Chen has the full story in the Taipei Times.

A smaller venue dedicated to jazz is also opening in Taipei. Roxy Jazz is a small basement club in Heping East Road. Again David Chen has the word in the Taipei Times. The south of Taiwan is not forgotten either. Brickyard is a new venue opening in Kaohsiung. Alita Rickards has more details.

Finally if you want to know what’s on and where check out GigGuide Taiwan for listings of live music events around Taiwan.

Art and architecture in Kaohsiung

dome-of-light-kaohsiung

I went to Kaohsiung (高雄) over the weekend. The sunny skies and warm temperatures were a nice contrast to Taipei of late. As well as enjoying the weather I was keen to see two sites of artistic and architectural significance that weren’t open to the public when I visited last year. My first stop was the Formosa Boulevard Station (美麗島捷運站) of the Kaohsiung MRT to see the Dome of Light (光之穹頂), a public art installation created by Italian artist Narcissus Quagliata.

dome-of-light-hope

I borrowed an audio guide from the KRTC Art Shop for NT$30. The guide gave a comprehensive narration, in English, of the key features of the artwork. The dome is very rich in detail and you can spend a long time visually exploring the it. The dome is divided into four sections: water, earth, light and fire. It also takes the form of a yin and yang symbol. Beginning with water it takes a journey through human life, exploring the stages of life and the place of humans in the universe. Continue reading

Motorbike tour to Maolin

Ben navigating with map of Taiwan

The journey began with an early morning train ride on Tuesday from Taichung to Tainan. In Tainan Ben and I got the motorbikes ready and hit the road. We were soon beyond Tainan’s city limits and riding through verdant countryside. After a few hours passing through towns like Qishan, Meinong and Gaoshu amidst the rolling hills,  we reached the edge of much more substantial mountains and the entrance to the Maolin National Scenic Area (茂林國家風景區) in Kaohsiung County.

Slate house in Duona village, Taiwan

Slate house in Duona village, Maolin Scenic Area, Kaohsiung County.

 

We had lunch in Maolin before heading further up the valley to the Rukai village of Dona (多納). This village is one of the few places in Taiwan where you can find slate houses. Slate is used as a building material in the village for constructing fences and the walls and rooves of houses. It is a traditional building method of the Rukai and Paiwan peoples. Continue reading