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Taiwanese Indigenous Musicology Pioneer | Calaw Mayaw

  • Date:2023-01-30
Taiwanese Indigenous Musicology Pioneer | Calaw Mayaw

‧ Chinese Name: 林信來

‧ Born: 1936

‧ Died: May 31, 2022

‧ Place of Birth: Hualien County (Eastern Taiwan)

‧ Did You Know?

Calaw Mayaw, a pioneer in Taiwanese indigenous music research, was an Amis born in Hualien in 1936. He devoted his life to the investigation and research of the music of Taiwanese minority ethnic groups, applying himself particularly to passing on Taiwan's indigenous music. In a time when indigenous music was largely ignored and overlooked, he preserved the melodies of their land and life and enriched Taiwan’s ongoing musical heritage.

In 1967, Calaw Mayaw, then a music student at National Taiwan Normal University, was one of the minority indigenous members of the "Taiwanese folk song gathering movement" promoted by musicians Hsu Tsang-houei (許常惠) and Shih Wei-liang (史惟亮). He went deep into more than 70 Amis villages to collect music, an effort to which he dedicated more than ten years. He traveled all over the Amis lands, collecting, summarizing, and recording more than 300 songs and assisting in the translation of traditional folk songs and music culture of the village of Falangaw, going on to study these traditional songs in greater depth.

After he won the Sun Yat-Sen Academic Literature Award for "Research on Taiwanese Amis Folk Songs (台灣阿美族民謠研究)," published in 1979, he compiled his research results and re-published "Research on Taiwanese Amis Folk Songs—Banzah A Ladiu (Banzah A Ladiu台灣阿美族民謠謠詞研究)," cementing his musicological status. After that, he also participated in the Amis music research project commissioned by Academia Sinica and the Council for Cultural Affairs, as well as writing the book "Songs of the Yiwan Amis Harvest Festival (宜灣阿美族豐年祭歌謠)."

During his tenure as a professor in the Department of Music, Taitung University, Calaw Mayaw studied the traditional music and dance of the Pinuyumayan village of Puyuma, and published "Research on Taiwan Pinuyumayan People and their Folk Tunes (臺灣卑南族及其民謠曲調研究)." His paper "Music of Puyuma Settlement (南王聚落之音樂)" was included in "Research on Taiwan Indigenous Sacrificial Ceremonies and Folk Song and Dance Activities (臺灣土著祭儀及歌舞民俗活動之研究)."

Calaw Mayaw was also a music teacher for more than 40 years and never stopped loving the work of folk song collection even after retiring from Taitung University. Despite physical illness, he continued to play Amis songs on the piano almost every day. Besides the written records, he also hoped to carry forward these precious and beautiful Amis ballads through audio recordings.

A lover of music, Calaw Mayaw also worked to pass on this enthusiasm and dedication to later generations. In 2021, he and his daughter Ado Kaliting Pacidal jointly published the special book "Radiw no O'rip, the Man Who Tells Stories with Songs (Radiw no O’rip 那個用歌說故事的人)," sharing a historical view of Amis songs and capturing widespread attention across Taiwanese society. As a singer, Ado Kaliting Pacidal hopes to present the stories and values of her father’s generation of folk song collectors through a year and a half of conversations and recordings with her father.

The Amis word radiw, if translated literally, means something close to "song." But in Amis, there is no word as "music," only radiw, or in the verb form romadiw, which means "singing." Singing is the most primitive form of literature, a way of communcating and narrating. It can even transcend language and communicate with the gods of heaven and earth. Changes and mixures of languages, melodies, and rhythms in each tune correspond to singers' situations in life. Calaw Mayaw broke away from Han Chinese focused approaches to ethnomusicology and returned to the logic of radiw, collecting songs in his own way.

Taken less literally, radiw could be considered to point to what it really means to be Amis. By singing, the legends and histories of the tribe are told, and the admonitions and encouragements left by the ancestors to their descendants are also carried onward. Radiw ties together the life changes of Amis at every stage, and singing provides a kind of collective memory and life practice. Through singing, they can prove their existence as a real Amis.

In fact, it is difficult to properly present the context and values of the songs collected by Calaw Mayaw with the dominant Sinocentric academic theories and methods of that time. And so he attempted to construct an understanding from the Amis perspective, using the Amis aesthetic knowledge system through songs, poetry, cultural exposition, and analysis and research from an Amis-centric viewpoint. Calaw Mayaw shared Amis culture through music, and his efforts are sure to continue to influence contemporary musicians in Taiwan long into the future.