Sauljaljui: Insides Revealed

October 27, 2020

Identity With Herbs and Spices

Listening Post 276. Pull back the curtain, peel the skin, peer into the microscope, much of the human quest for understanding involves looking beneath the surface of things. Sauljaljui doesn’t actually veil her mystique—outside she’s a modern singer-songwriter, inside a proud woman of her tribe, the Paiwan, one of the Indigenous peoples of Taiwan—but magic runs through every note and frame of Insides Revealed, her second solo album. It flows from her musical odyssey: Once drawn to heavy metal, she ultimately took the path back to tribal tradition, picking up sprigs of R&B, folk, Latin reggae and pop-rock like herbs and spices gleaned on a forest walk. She sings of village concerns—leaders, elders and friends, hunting, dancing and drinking—her voice in Paiwan and Mandarin Chinese ranging from suave highs to warrior lows. She plays yueqin (a two-string Taiwanese lute) and nose flute, her band adding an array of contemporary strings, brass, percussion and, for good measure, a didgeridoo. Community is central to Sauljaljui’s vision: Battle Song (Cemavulid, video 1) expresses confidence in young people to maintain their culture; the swaggering Like It Used to Be (Masi Sicuayan, video 2) looks to the past for lessons in social cohesion; and Monkey Orchard (Qumaquma na Pucauwan, video 3) is a light-hearted take on the neighborhood’s fruit-stealing primates. Gathering Before a Hunt (Ari qemaljup) offers glimpses of village ritual and also reflects the artist’s contribution to her ancestral home, where she gives music lessons to children and performs for elders (video 4). Squash Blossoms Back Home (想回家的心情) echoes her voice in the city, longing for simple pleasures and, in the process, finding insights worth sharing (video 5). Social scientists who study the balance of ethnicity and personality often produce learned but dense prose. Sauljaljui turns the same equation into captivating art. (Wind Music International)

Note. Paiwan, spoken by 65,000 people, is one of a dozen Indigenous languages used in Taiwan. It is part of the Austronesian family of some 1,250 languages spoken across the Indian and Pacific Oceans by nearly 400 million people, from Madagascar to Easter Island. The prevailing view of linguists is that Taiwan is the point of origin of this vast grouping. Austronesian tribes, now just two percent of Taiwan’s population, dominated the island until Chinese settlement began in the seventeenth century.

Sauljaljui: Insides Revealed / 戴曉君: 裡面的外面
Sauljaljui (Tai Siao-chun): Vocals, yueqin (moon lute), nose flute
Tseng Jen-yi: Guitar
Hung Tzu-lung: Piano
Jiro Yeh: Bass
Wu Cheng-chun: Percussion
Lee Yi-fang: Drum set
Dakung: Didgeridoo
Toshi: Harmonica
Stephen Huang: Violin
Chin En: Violin
Ann Lin: Viola
Jiro Yeh: Cello
Antonio Cheng: Trumpet
Teng Yi-chun: Trombone
Backing vocals: Tai Kuo-chang, Paljaljim Galuvu, Tai Wei-hong, Sawniyaw Pasusu, Kiwa Istanda Husungan, Kuo Yu-fan, Kebaoer Cikem, Ilju Kisurur, Vais Valjaivai, Terud Talimarav, Lin Ke-wei, Schulz Wang, Liao Chiu-ju, Hung Tzu-lung


Battle Song / Cemavulid / 戰歌
Lyrics & music: Sauljaljui (Tai Siao-chun)

(From the Paiwan lyrics)
The young generation is
The pillar of the village
Bringing glory to
The village is our mission


Like It Used to Be / Masi Sicuayan / 從前那樣
Lyrics & music: Sauljaljui (Tai Siao-chun)

(From the Paiwan)
I really miss our past
We were always united as one
No matter where you are
Remember that we are a community

Why do we need to be united?
We’ve always been that way!
We should show more concern for each other
That’s the way to stay close
While we are enjoying each other’s company
The ancestors will protect us


Monkey Orchard / Qumaquma na Pucauwan / 猴子的果園
Lyrics & music: Sauljaljui (Tai Siao-chun)

(From the Paiwan)
Monkeys come every day
to Mom’s orchard
stealing our unripe dragon fruits.
Mom helplessly cries out,
“What can we do about this?”
The monkeys have eaten all the fruit.

You monkeys,
Show some compassion
And leave some for us!


Gathering Before a Hunt / Ari qemaljup / 出列
Lyrics: Qusam Picavil/Music: Sauljaljui (Tai Siao-chun)

(From the Paiwan)
It’s time for the hunt!
Up into the mountains!
May the gods bless us with a good hunt
As we offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving


Squash Blossoms Back Home / 想回家的心情
Lyrics & music: Sauljaljui (Tai Siao-chun)

(From the Mandarin Chinese lyrics)
I want to go home to eat, talk
And spend time with the older generation
I want to hear your everyday small talk
And look into your gentle eyes
Simple, peaceful time together
That connects our hearts

The squash blossoms in the mountains
Are ready to be picked
It’s my dream to get back there
I embrace hope and let go of my stubborn insistence for a while
I want to go back to my home town




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