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Reviewed by:
  • Taïwan—Musique des Hakka: Chants Montagnards et Musique Instrumentale Bayin (Taiwan—Music of the Hakka: Mountain Songs and Bayin Instrumental Music)
  • Chuen-Fung Wong (bio)
Taïwan—Musique des Hakka: Chants Montagnards et Musique Instrumentale Bayin (Taiwan—Music of the Hakka: Mountain Songs and Bayin Instrumental Music). 2007. One CD (76:47). Performed by the Chung Yun-Hui Ensemble. Maison des Cultures du Monde, Inédit, website:, W260127. Booklet (28 pp.) with black/white photographs and lyrics, as well as liner notes by Wu Rung-Shun in French translation by Pierre Charau and English translation by Frank Kane.

Generally subsumed into the Han nationality as an ethnic/national subgroup, the Hakka earned their name—which literally means guest families—as centuries-old immigrants from central China to the southern provinces of Jiangxi, Hokkien (Fujian), and Canton (Guangdong), and subsequently also to Taiwan and Southeast Asia. Currently accounting for 20 percent of Taiwan's population, or about 4.6 million, the Hakka Taiwanese have been migrating to the island from mainland China since the mid-17th century. Musical continuities among diasporic Hakka communities are manifested in the transnational popularity of the two well-known performance traditions: mountain songs and the bayin instrumental music; both are represented on this Inédit CD.

Derived from the name of the ancient instrument classification system, the term bayin, literally eight sounds, is today a shared designation for a few instrumental traditions of variegated settings. Characterized by its idiosyncratic shawm-and-percussion sonority, the repertoire of bayin is enjoyed as a refined and intricate musical descendant of ancient court traditions. The bayin music of the Hakka people in Taiwan assumes two closely related regional styles, [End Page 217] identified broadly as the northern and southern traditions. Compared to the larger-sized northern bayin ensemble—which consists of six to eight performers on various flutes, bowed fiddles, plucked lutes, double reeds, and percussion instruments—the southern bayin ensemble is typically smaller and includes only four performers. The selections on the CD, all performed by the Chung Yun-Hui Ensemble, represent the finest of the southern tradition. Led by the renowned performer Chung Yun-Hui (b. 1938), members of the ensemble are natives of the Hakka town of Meinung in the Liudui region of southern Taiwan. The core of the ensemble is the double-reed shawm zuona of various sizes and a small percussion section of drums, woodblocks, cymbals, and gongs. A pair of bowed fiddles nixian and huxian and an end-blown flute xiao are also commonplace in the southern Hakka bayin tradition, which remains closely tied to ritual and ceremonial occasions such as weddings, funerals, and religious festival in Taiwan today. The CD also includes three representative Hakka mountain songs, a highly expressive Chinese folk song genre, featuring a female vocalist called Wen Tzu-Mei accompanied by the ensemble.

Recorded at the Maison des Culture due Monde in Paris during the ensemble's tour to France in March 2005, the 14 tracks on the CD represent a faithful selection of Hakka mountain songs and the southern bayin tradition of various settings, including, firstly, the dachui tunes ("big tunes"), a category of shawm-and-percussion pieces; secondly, xiaozi diao tunes (called dizi diao in the booklet; "tunes for the flute"), performed by the end-blown flute and the percussion section; and finally the xiansuo diao tunes ("tunes for strings"), performed by the shawm, the two bowed fiddles, and the percussion section. The uniformly excellent quality of the studio recording is accompanied by a well-sequenced selection of pieces from various styles and genres, attempting to mimic the actual succession of ritual acts and music. It begins with Chuihao jiao ("horn call"), an invocation to the gods, played on the shawm (with the double reeds removed), and is followed by a dachui tune that normally starts a bayin performance, called Tuanyuan xiangdi ("gathering and playing the flutes"), for the shawm-and-percussion combination. The music then proceeds with alternations among mountain songs and the three bayin instrumental settings, eventually leading to a closing shawm-and-percussion tune, called Da tuanyuan ("big gathering"), an abridged musical response to the opening shawm-and...


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