Taiwan: Indigenous Amis Musical Performed at National Theater

Indigenous culture has become more and more important in the Taiwanese performing arts scene. The recent Amis musical, “La Michael“, has been performed at the National Theater, a primary national performing arts venue in Taiwan and a landmark at the center of the Taipei city.

The musical was presented by an independent music company, Taiwan Colors Music Co. in September 2012 led by a famous Amis singer, Suming, and many young Amis performers.

The cultural crossing of Amis and Michael Jackson

In the Amis culture, the name for a group of young people becoming full-grown is decided by the elder in the village. During the coming of age ceremony, the young adults are given a new shared name, which is usually decided based on the important event in that year. For example, the group of Amis people in 2000 were named “La Millennium”.

The story of “La Michael” describes a group of young Amis people who try to convince their elders to name them “La Michael” so as to commemorate Michael Jackson's death. However, since the elders do not consider Michael Jackson a very important person, these young people need to prove his importance by winning a national dance competition with their team name, “La Michael”. Below is a video uploaded by Catherine Lin showing one of the dance numbers in “La Michael”:

The Amis singer in this musical, Suming, commented on one of his Facebook photos after the musical [zh]:


Photo of the performance

Photo of the performance “La Michael”, via the Facebook page of “You haven't given me a toast for a long time”.

I am one of the young people in our village. I am also one of the young people who struggle to make our dreams come true in the city. I am immersed in our traditional culture. I am also immersed in pop music and life. I try to integrate these seemingly conflicting things perfectly.

On her self-titled blog Annpo highlighted [zh] the charisma of mixed culture in this musical:

整場表演最讓人血脈噴張的部分, 就是所有學生在大跳傳統舞蹈後, 突然接了場急劇張力的black & white表演, 全場嗨翻. 他們知道外面的世界有什麼, 也知道自己有什麼, 那麼他們才知道自己是誰, 也才知道怎麼結合雙方的優勢 [..] 雖然製作單位沒說, 節目單沒說, 但我猜想’麥克傑克遜’知所以變成主題, 除了他的音樂舞蹈是流行的標記外, 麥克傑克遜本身不也是在文化認同中徘徊, 而後結合變奏的一個代表? black & white正是經典…’拉麥克’正也是藉著那個黑白麥可, 再次針對文化認同對話後, 一次精彩的演譯.

The most exciting moment in their performance was the shift from traditional dance to intensive “Black or White” performance. Everyone was yelling! They know what other people have, and they know what they have. As a result, they know who they are, and they know how to integrate the advantage of both [..] Neither the producer nor the play bill explained why they chose Michael Jackson to be the topic of this musical. In addition to choosing the hallmark of pop culture, I guess they made this choice because Michael Jackson is a representative for working across different culture identities by mixing them. “Black or White” is a classic…”La Michael” is a wonderful interpretation for Michael’s “Black or White” and his contribution to cross-cultural dialogue.
Photo of the performance 'La Michael,' via the facebook page of 'You haven't given me a toast for a long time'.

Photo of the performance “La Michael”, via Facebook page “You haven't given me a toast for a long time”.

Dr. Cheng-Liang Tsai, an anthropologist living in an Amis village, explained the importance of this dance culture in one famous Amis village, A’tolan, from an anthropologist’s viewpoint in his thesis,

these Amis young people have been creating an alternative style of body exhibition which comes from a complex interplay among global hip-hop music, Amis socio-cultural concepts, and pan-indigenous identity.

by means of collective body exhibitions, dance is a socialization process for Amis youth. Not only does it revitalize the age-grade organization system of Amis society, but also represents a sense of belonging to an age set, village, and to an ethnolinguistic group that is Amis people.

This is the second indigenous musical presented by Taiwan Colors Music Co. Their first musical, ‘You have not toasted to me for a long time (很久沒敬我了你),’ was led by many famous Puyuma singers two years ago in the National Musical Hall.


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