November 11, 2013

Taiwanese Drummers - a majestetic performance in the park

Drummers in Taipei - a magical evening

A few weeks ago a friend of mine mentioned that she was going to volunteer at an event in Taipei, and asked me if I wanted to come along – not to volunteer but to see what was going on, and when i was told that there would be performances, I knew I had to go.

I am glad I did.

Stage, full of drummers
"Meeting with Boddisatwa" on stage
The performance was a drumming act, and it was one of the most amazing drumming acts, maybe the best, that I have ever seen. To imagine that I almost missed it... I will be forever grateful to my friend who brought me along to see this well coordinated event, so strong and so powerful, being played out right in front of my eyes, right in front of my ears there in Taipei. It is an unbelievable experience, seeing a big number of drummers on stage, perfectly coordinated, drumming and performing, as well coordinated as if it was a ballet, where every move is perfectly coordinated with the moves of the others.

I wouldn't have wanted to miss the performance, "Meeting with the Boddhisatwa" by U-theatre (see link for further information) for anything, it was a magical experience, very serene, yet incredibly powerful and full of energy.

Arriving in the park

When we arrived in the park I was almost overwhelmed just by what was going on right there, right then, in the park, not even knowing that I would also, later on, get to see such an incredibly strong performance. It was more than what I could have hoped for, just what was going on in the park.

Three children sitting on the asphalt painting with water colours
Children in the park, painting. Wonderful creativity!
 The whole area was full of market stands offering food samples of traditional foods that you could buy, there were theatre groups and book companies offering information about their services, there were representatives from the temples informing those who were interested about what was going on. There was a big number of people in the park and as my friend had work to do, I had the opportunity to wander around on my own, and I took it.

Such a wonderful thing to do, wandering around at a market, taking in the surroundings, listening to the sounds and bit by bit getting used to the language. Down by the river artists were sitting with their paints and canvases, some of them teaching others, little children were painting colourful drawings, it was a wonderful atmosphere.

Men and women with sticks, practicing their performance
U-theatre practising
After strolling around I was however starting to get a bit tired and I decided it was time to get a coffee, and do some writing: I don't just blog and study, I have plenty of other text materials that I am working on too, writing is something I have always enjoyed – maybe that's also why writing in Chinese is so important to me - something I wrote more about earlier in the blog (link here).

I found a little coffee place in the park, well hidden, and while I was sitting there, with my pen and paper, I suddenly noticed a steady drumming. Looking up I realised that a group of Taiwanese were outside in the little square in front of the cafe, practising what I at that time assumed was some kind of marshal arts. It was beautifully coordinated, and the women and the men were drumming separately but still very well connected. I couldn't help but just stand there and watch and listen for a long time before I returned to my coffee.

Dancers practising a dance, stick in hands. Big boulder in the middle of the square.
More drum practise
After the coffee it was almost time to head back to the area where my friend was volunteering; The big event she had been mentioning, a theatre act, was supposed to take place on stage, and I had been recommended to take place in front of the stage early on. 

I didn't follow the advice. 

I realised that sitting on a little chair in front of a stage just waiting for it to start is not my idea of fun, so I took a decision: I would be better of more in the back, where I could be flexible and come and go if needed – not the least considering how much else was going on, things I didn't want to miss. Children were flying their kites, toddlers were running around, as best as they could, the way toddlers do. Parents were watching their little ones playing ball games, I especially noticed a little boy who were an excellent baseball hitter – baseball is a huge sport in Taiwan – that boy will go far if nothing special happens that prevents him from playing, that's how good he was.  I am glad I moved to the back and had a chance to see all this.

Sitting still is not my greatest skill.

But then the music started. There were a few seconds of confusion when I realised that what I saw on stage was what I had witnessed being practised just before, just outside the little cafe. 

As soon as the music started playing I was dragged in, the amazing rhythms immediately caught my attention and hypnotised me, I was spellbound, there was no getting away. I had to stay and listen, walking closer and closer, all while the little children continued to play in the background. It was thousands of people together, gathered on the big field in front of the stage, while the sun was coming down behind it, and yet I felt like I was the only one, as if the music was talking directly to me. 

It was magic.

It was one of those evenings I will never forget. 

If I ever have the chance to see this kind of performance again, I will.

Where was it? 

The whole performance took place in what according to my research is called "體育場 or 館 棒球場 公園 in Chinese, located in New Taipei City, 新莊市. 

In Pinyin that would be "Ti yu chang" or "Guan Gang Qiu Chang Gong Yuan" (Gong Yuan meaning public park). Unfortunately I haven't been able to find the English name for it, except for "Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium", which is in the same park, just different corner.  

Having difficulties finding the English name is a common problem here, just as finding the Chinese name or the pinyin when you have the English often is. However I have mapped it out, see below (anyone who can help me with the English name of the park, please comment or send me a mail.) I have indications that it simply may be called "Xin Zhuang Gymnasium" or, in Taiwanese romanisation, Hsin Chuang Gymnasium (Sunshine Lawn), but I cannot swear on it - yes, it is confusing with romanisation in Taiwan. Now do you see why I say you have to learn to recognise Chinese characters

View Spots in Taichung and in Taiwan in a larger map

PS! I apologise for the quality of the photos, I forgot my charger and the extra batteries for the big camera and ran out of power early on, so I had to use my mobile phone. 

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