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Rapport Series XXIII: Chu-Yin Culture and Arts Troupe

  • Publish Date:2019-10-16
Rapport Series XXIII: Chu-Yin Culture and Arts Troupe

Polyphonic music of the Amis tribe

The Chu-Yin Culture and Arts Troupe was initiated to preserve and promote traditional Malan Amis polyphonic music. The troupe aspires to cultivate new talent to breathe new life into the rapidly dying traditional singing art form, in addition to documenting the folk songs and dances for future generations.

Traditional Amis songs are categorized into three types:
(1) Harvest Festival Ballads: The harvest festival is the largest annual festival of the Amis tribe, and ballads are sang during this festival.
(2) Everyday folk songs: These refers to songs that are usually sang during farming and leisure times.
(3) Banquet song and dance: During celebration banquets and for greeting special visitors, the tribe would gather to dance and sing, many times in a circle format.

Malan Amis polyphonic music is presented in free form counterpoint singing format, which is an intertwining of low voice parts and high voice parts, creating variation with contrapuntal techniques. Due to the improvisation of the high-voice singers and the innovation from the low-voice singers, the melody will display a "curving" sound, making the song extremely full-bodied and rich.

The three main concepts of Malan Amis polyphonic music are: harmony, high (treble) and low (bass) voice parts, and improvisation of melody. Malan Amis polyphonic music performance usually consists of six to seven tribal members, divided into two to four voice parts.

A leading male tribal member with a deep voice initiates the song and the other singers follow with different lyrics, and create harmony through heterophony, overlapping, and parallel. The lead singer is the conductor, and has the flexibility to improvise the words to create different beautiful melody at each round.

This singing method requires mutual understanding within the group, and a large range of singing skills. Currently, only a few elder tribe members can still sing using this method.

Most Malan Amis polyphonic songs have no titles. When the lead singer begins to sing the first phrase, the rest of the group members would know what song to sing. However, in order to preserve and document, names are given to each of the songs as they are documented. The song name, to make it easier to understand, are usually the situation the song was performed, such as "A Happy Drinking Song," "Weeding Song," and "A Farewell Song."