Erenlai - Displaying items by tag: interview
Wednesday, 14 July 2010 00:00

When hip-hop meets traditional Taiwanese music

Kou Chou Ching is a hip-hop band formed in Taiwan in 2003. They blend rap lyrics sung in Taiwanese, Hakka and Mandarin with musical samples from diverse traditional Taiwanese sources and live Eastern instruments such as suona and bong-ze.

In this interview with eRenlai in Chinese, Kou Chou Chin's two MCs, fishLIN and Fan-Chiang, introduce their very singular conception of hip-hop, detail their interest for Taiwanese musical traditions, and evoke the very diverse reactions to their music.


Tuesday, 22 June 2010 17:46

Yuan Dancers: return to the source of aboriginal dance in Taiwan

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The 1980s saw in Taiwan the emergence of the Taiwanese aboriginal movement. In 1991, the “Yuan dancers” company was established in response to the demand for aborigines to be able to perform their own dances.

Before that, aboriginal dance and music were performed in Taiwan by non-aboriginal dancers who were unable to capture the true spirit of the dances. Faidaw Fagod, founder and artistic director of the Yuan dancers company, said “Most dancers apply the feet position they’ve already learnt to the aboriginal dances, with the toes outwards for example, but to aboriginals, it is not the right way to dance!” Also, these so-called aboriginal dance troupes were originally meant for tourists: they were using electronic music, changing the dances styles and improperly mixing music from different tribes. So, among the aborigines, some started to think that they should rediscover the real essence of aboriginal dance “using pure aborigine sound, using aborigine own breathing and dancing with aborigine own rhythm”.

The Yuan dancers asked the elders of the tribes to teach young people how to dance the original aboriginal dances. But it is very difficult when you are far away from your land to make people understand the essence of this art. So the elders changed their way of teaching and they decided to take the students to the tribe to make them experience the aborigines’ reality onsite. The most important aspect of aboriginal dance is to feel the vitality and the energy of its ‘wilderness’. Faidaw Fagod said “Yuan dancers have a different practice of dance to other professional dancers. In fact, there is not a specialized way of teaching. We would like the dancers to learn and understand the dance by repeating the chants and the movements such as ‘feet-tapping’. It is through practice that they will find the right way to dance”. Repetition and practice also allow oneself to familiarize with the dance movements and dance partners. When they hold each others’ hands, the dancers can feel each others’ breath and emotions, and then harmony emerges through the tacit understanding is developed.

Faidaw Fagod also likes to make fun of himself by saying that he is the “ancestor” of the company, as he’s been dancing for 19 years: “Since the foundation of the company until now, I have participated in many shows but I still do not feel tired of it because the people I dance with always have different feelings. When I dance, I like to feel the mood of the person next to me and try to guess what the person besides me is thinking about. Does he feel comfortable? Is he worried about something? I can feel all these things while I am dancing”.

Dancing is mostly a matter of moving and feeling, so the Yuan dancers welcome all aborigines without distinction of age or sex; thus they have members ranging in age from 10 to 48. Faidaw Fagod also says that for the dance company’s survival and development, Yuan dancers are now cooperating with other artists who help them to write scenarios, direct the plays or train them in a more specialized way. Thus for example, the professional training schedule includes a 3 or 4 hour practice of calligraphy to develop patience and concentration.

As the Yuan dancers extended their collaboration with choreographers and stage directors of all origins, including non-aborigines, might they lose their group spirit and cohesion? Faidaw Fagod is very optimistic and says with confidence: “No, we do not fear such a phenomenon because the aboriginal people will keep repeating and reproducing the rites of the aborigines. We wish to offer even more new creation and, regardless of the further changes to come, we will keep the spirit of the aboriginal people alive”.

Adapted to English by Marie Delaplanche

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Photos by Huang YuShun

 


Thursday, 20 May 2010 00:00

Matteo Ricci, a Jesuit in the realm of the dragon

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In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the passing of Matteo Ricci, Gjon Kolndrekaj was commissioned by the Society of Jesus and the Italian diocese of Macerata, the birthplace of Matteo Ricci's birthplace, to direct the documentary on the life of Matteo Ricci. In  filming the documentary he would journey along Matteo Ricci's path, starting in Ricci's home town of Macerate. Taipei's own Ricci Institute also thought it fitting to invite the accomplished director to Taiwan's first screening of the 50-minute documentary at the National Central Library in Taiwan, before which he was interviewed by eRenlai.  The on-site interpretation was provided generously by Antonella Tulli of Fu Jen Catholic University.

Gjon spent his early years in Albania. His inspiration to focus on directing documentaries came from Mother Teresa, a cousin of his mother. He once asked Mother Teresa to come with him for a couple of hours to a special place. He took her to a place where they would be drawn by a reknowned holy artist. Whilst they were being drawn, Mother Teresa told him that if he wanted to do God's work he should count on his fingers every morning on awaking, five things that he would do for humanity. By night he should count how many of these he had accomplished. Each good deed for humanity would be considered a deed done for God. From then Gjon put all his efforts into documentary, where he perceived his mission to lie.

Eventually Gjon tried to progress to a prestigious film school in Rome. At the time Albania had a very closed off regime (whose few allies included China) and no one in Europe had much information about the situation. Gjon took advantage of this to proceed in his mission, recounting some tales about the situation at the time in Albania. Fascinated by what he told them, the competitive school decided to enroll him. In this school he was exposed to some of the greatest documentary and filmmakers to ever embrace the world, amongst those he was influenced by, learnt from and worked with were Valerio Zurlini, Micros Jankson (Autumn Sonata) and Jon Evans.

Gjon has made documentaries of two particularly great people. They were of different eras and their missions were in different countries. He has already made a documentary of Mother Teresa and says that she and Ricci both managed to raise awareness of the struggles and poverty of the common people to the leaders of their respective countries. However they started from different paths: Mother Teresa initially acquainted herself with the leaders and worked her way down to those with the worst hardships; Ricci started off with the common people then worked his mission into the sympathies of the gentry class and then all the way to the emperor. His achievements go without saying, he was the first person to really introduce Chinese civilisation to the west.

When asked about the future Gjon talked with the confident optimism of a man who is constantly in the process of accomplishing his mission and with the knowledge that he is at least  contributing . Regarding the situation in his own homecountry of Albania he said "Clever people, will find a clever solution. The path to democracy is a slow process. They're on the right path". On his own future, he will be returning to his own hometown this summer. Furthermore, he has another project in the works, another Saint - Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini - who helped Italian immigrants in the USA when they were one of the most marginalised and maltreated groups in the country. Later Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone and other prominent Italian Americans later set up a foundation in her name and her honour. Once again, hers is a case that has huge relevance to the modern day where there are still innumerous groups of immigrants suffering persecution and racism all over the world.

Gjon explains that he began to understand the achievements of Matteo Ricci when he had the opportunity to travel to Beijing in 1976: "Focusing so much on researching Matteo Ricci, this Catholic missionary, this Italian scientist who met with eastern philosophy and ideology, was an undertaking that fascinated me. I hope that through this documentary I have contributed to the understanding and recognition of Matteo Ricci, not just those for those who worked on the project but to give many others the chance to know him"

"Because he fascinated me as a person; first as a man, secondly as a man of faith and this insight in knowledge that he wanted to transmit. His magnanimity that all men of good will can have" -Gjon Kolndrekaj 

To see the official trailer for the documentary click here.

 

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Wednesday, 19 May 2010 15:03

Tabla, Tala and the Universe (Part 2)

Born in Japan, Waka is now based in Taipei where he teaches and performs the tabla, a well known Indian drum.  He has spent much time in India learning the tabla and now travels throughout Taiwan and Asia performing with all types of musicians, from Indian classical to rock.

In this fascinating interview Waka introduces the tabla and proceeds to elaborate on the philosophy of classical Indian music.


Wednesday, 28 April 2010 12:44

A postcard of Taipei

Taiwanese conceptual artist Nat Niu introduces us to his two videos concepts: The Line and Postcard.

 
Published in
Focus: City and Poetry

Thursday, 11 February 2010 13:02

Butterflies and amusement parks

Self, the other and fantasy. Ida contrasts Taipei New Year, an Aboriginal tribe's New Year and her vision of an ideal Chinese New Year.


Sunday, 29 November 2009 00:00

Awaken your Inner Guerrillero

Here, Alfie talks to us about the movement that he founded: ’Guerrilla Movie’. Due to his upbringing in Nangang which was going through all the contradictions of a poorer area in development, his work is influenced by this upbringing and has an ironic and idealist flavour. His group Guerrilla Movie was originally set up to give his own films a chance to be shown and a chance to survive. Later, they used their experience to help other young and first time directors, who had neither the resources or following to be shown at bigger cinemas. They enlisted many cafes in a project - 1st Film Festival - which showed 30 first time directors’ films in cafes, which allowed their low budget filming, despite its lack of advertising to get some feedback. He refers to his group as ’Punks of Film’ who use ’cameras and lights to make graffiti and guerrilla warfare.’ When they all started using High Definition (HD) GM started using webcams. Its the act of making art and displaying it, not the medium that counts.

They want to keep their projects original, thought provoking and underground. For example, before they started showing the films in cafes, they would use more underground, alternative locations: they projected one film onto the underside of Banqiao bridge in Taipei, under which a part of the film had indeed been shot. To make the projection possible, they ’borrowed’ the local electricity by connecting cables from the streetlights. Then they drunk beer and chewed betel nuts along with the slightly confused locals as they watched their own film play.

Alfie avoids conventional forms of media for advertising, preferring to alternative techniques such as graffiti and blogs. Thus Guerrilla Movies would to the largest extent possible, not spend any money on these projects. Just doing whatever necessary to allow the films to exist. Of course everyone must do what is necessary to survive, but he feels the ’system of responsibility’ and ’overtime culture’ is excessive and reduces independence and the ability to think. People shouldn’t forget their ideals, dreams and give up all the things they wanted to achieve simply because society tells them that they should compromise and conform to the ’inevitable’ norms of society.



Tuesday, 09 June 2009 01:10

On Sport in Taiwan

"Sport is a subject that people do during their lifetime"

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