And welcome to the first of our special edition Global Music Match newsletters! Just in case you missed it or you weren't paying attention last week - quick recap! Global Music Match is a world-first collaboration between 96 artists from 14 countries around the world, in response to the limitations imposed on the live music industry by COVID-19. Over the next 6 weeks, we'll be introducing you to 1 artist each week. And this week we're kicking off with Outlet Drift from Taiwan!
Music is clearly important in Taiwan. So important in fact that even the refuse collection lorries play music. Something we experienced first hand when the start of our interview with Outlet Drift is loudly interrupted by the 'garbage truck song'. Not to be confused with the icecream van. But the eccentricities of the refuse system aside, the Taiwanese music scene is thriving. And its eclecticism reflects the diverse culture of its people. An amalgam of Mandopop and Western classical, pop, rock and metal sit alongside folk culture and the distinct artistic identities of indigenous tribes.
Outlet Drift are an indigenous band from the Amis tribe. Siblings Putad (bass) and Wusang Pihay (guitar) and their cousin Linken (drums) grew up in the city of Taitung but returned to their indigenous community 10 years ago to explore their heritage and reclaim their tradition.
The Amis people make up one of the largest indigenous groups in Taiwan. But in 1949 the arrival of the Republic of China's Kuomintang government suppressed native Taiwanese culture and almost entirely eradicated the Amis language in the shadow of Mandarin. Outlet Drift describe it as their 'mission' to rekindle their traditions and keep the Amis language alive. Their music is their 'way to let people know'. Although heavily rooted in Amis culture, their music is far from traditional. In their own words '[the elders] think our music's not the traditional way - but who cares!' Their jazz, rock and psychedelic influences have made them a hit in the bigger cities like Taipei, especially with younger audiences. And educating the future generations is paramount for the band. They want to breathe new life into the traditions rather than simply preserving them.
Outlet Drift sing about nature, the land and the ocean. Their songs are a celebration of traditional ceremonies such as the Harvest Festival and express their gratitude for the resources they've received from their ancestors. Their traditional trades of farming and fishing also feature heavily in their writing. Not a million miles away from the 'All Jolly Fellows that Follow the Plough' or 'Greenland Whale Fisheries' type of songs so familiar to us.
Outlet Drift mention that the Amis society is matriarchal. And - word of the week - matrilineal! If like us you reach this word and have to proverbially rummage around for a dictionary, we'll spare you and Google the hassle. It means that inheritance passes through the maternal line; a man marries into a woman's family and children are considered part of the mother's family. Outlet Drift tell us that in practice their societal roles involve men doing the physical labour, whilst women usually play a key role in the family and in educating the next generations. Interestingly, the way they speak about these gender roles seems almost identical to the traditional Western view of gender. But their perception of their importance is reversed.
Putad tells us a bit more about how they reflect the matriarchy in their music. Much like many of the traditional songs we might be familiar with, Amis traditional music features call and response, which in their culture is always led by the woman. Similarly, she often sings a musical counterpoint to her male band members, a simultaneous and yet rhythmically and melodically independent line, which she says represents her role as a woman. The themes of their songs also illustrate the importance of women and motherhood in their society. During our interview they sung us a song about breastfeeding. Not a songwriting topic we'd ever come across before! But as their voices travelled the 6000 miles to us our hairs stood on end. At a time when it's easy to feel isolated from the rest of the world, what an enormous privilege it was to hear them. As Putad said as we waved goodbye 'music is the universal language' and she's absolutely right. No language barrier or frustratingly slow broadband can get in the way of that.
The Magpies x