Piteyo Ukah

Taroko People

Taroko, Taiwan

Piteyo is a respected singer-songwriter and cultural authority from the Taroko tribe. He and his partner Eden, have dedicated twenty years to running their Ketusan Studio, producing Toroko music and theatre performances. He has released two solo albums and was selected to present at the MIDEM World Record Market in France. He has also regularly appears in International documentaries, including the Discovery Channel. 

Back in Jul' 2016 in Taroko Taiwan...

"Culture is life, life is culture.”

- Piteyo Ukah

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In the past, before the missionaries came, we used to practice head hunting. Not only in physical hunting, but also the spiritual hunting, to hunt another family's spirits to strengthen our own. A man could have tattoos on their face, it was a symbol of adulthood, showing they have hunted human heads or three wild pigs. We also used to hang the hair from the head under our elbow, attached to our clothing.

The song 'Uyas Gerakun' means welcome song, it is for showing our Truku people's warmest welcome. It could simply be used to welcome people. It could also be sung after the head hunting to welcome this person's spirit as well as this person's families' spirits to join their family, to become their brothers and sisters. We make the sound  'U~' to communicate with ancestor's spirits in the wind, similar to praying, to start the hunting ceremony. 

 

The flute you could hear from the beginning of the song is called Pagagu, we don't see this as an instrument, it's a tool, and we use it to clam the spirit of the animal which was hunted by us.

The second part of the song is based an original song called "Lei mu bu gao gao (Music is language)", it features the Qoqaw (jaw harp), one of the few instruments traditionally used by our Taroko people. Hunters use the Qoqaw to communicate in the jungle and also use it to show their appreciation to partner they want to attract.

 

We don't practice head hunting any more, but I still catch wild pigs by hand, those ones with tusks! And I still decorate by clothing with human hair, oh, that's my sister's hair. (laughter) 

- Piteyo Ukah

 

It was a pleasure working with Piteyo (Bi-De-Lo) and Eden at Ketusan Studio set in a traditional Truku village on the edge of the Truku Gorge national park, for three days back in June 2017. We were introduced by the A-Zone cultural and creative park in Hualien where we have delivered few lectures over the past few years.

 

Their story and past of the Taroko people is both tragic and inspirational, when the Japanese came to occupy Taiwan in the late 19th century, the Taroko people were still living in their homelands, in the Taroko mountains, but the Japanese had plans for the mountains and set out to move them. But they held their ground and beat the Japanese soldiers, in retaliation the Japanese attacked them with a huge army, and massacred the community. 

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