Lin Fengyi, MA student, Graduate Institute of Taiwanese Literature, National Chengchi University
After the 1970s, as the Taiwanese economy soared, a steady stream of young aborigines left their tribes in search of employment opportunities in the city, thus creating an outflow that would not easily be reversed. With the passing of time, those who had left their tribes and entered the immense urban maze seemed to gradually forget the traditions that once flowed in their blood. When the way home becomes blurred and remote, does not the tribe itself also become less distinct? This is the context of “Annual Festival Song” (1988), created by Puyuma musician Baliwakes.
Born in 1910 in the Nanwang tribe in Taitung, Baliwakes showed early musical talent and was a keen piano player. He devoted himself to the education of aboriginal people in Taitung until 1949, when he retired from teaching to concentrate on writing songs. Baliwakes left over thirty Puyuma ballads. His final work, the posthumous “Annual Festival Song,” has been passed down to this day.
This simple song tells of the melancholy and homesickness of migrant workers. The lyrics say, “I work far away/I can’t go home often/to visit my parents and my friends/But I have never forgotten my traditions/and my time together with my family/My mother adorns me with flowers/so I can go dance and sing”. The song has a sinuous melody that depicts the road home – the endless, inexpressible road that is buried deep in the heart of the migrant worker. Baliwakes called this work “Annual Festival Song” because he found that many of the young people who came back to their tribes each New Year had forgotten how to sing traditional Puyuma new-year’s songs. The song expresses Baliwakes’s fervent hope that young Puyuma people will not forget their culture.
Annual Festival Song video clip
(Source: The Formosa Indigenous Foundation of Culture and Arts)