Makav’s GMA Win Highlights Taiwanese Indigenous Music

For years, the Golden Melody Awards (GMAs) have spotlighted Taiwanese Indigenous music. At this year’s event, Makav, a member of Taiwan‘s indigenous Bunun tribe, clinched the coveted Best New Artist title.

“I am truly grateful! I hope to encourage fellow 20-year-old creators to pursue their musical ideas and bring them to life,” Makav told Variety.

Taiwan’s 16 Indigenous tribes constitute only 2% of the population, yet young GenZ artists like Makav are fervently blending international influences while igniting a resurgence of truly local music across Taiwan. “When I create music, I blend English, Bunun and Chinese, singing in a way that feels natural, but it must always include my native language because native languages are very cool,” she said.

“More and more people are joining the creation of indigenous music in Taiwan,” said Makav. And indeed, Indigenous musicians were prominent across several categories of the GMAs. They secured wins in Best Vocal Group (O-Kai Singer), and Best Taiwanese Language Album (Panai Kusui’s “Iā-Pô”), alongside recognition in the Indigenous language categories.

ABAO, founder of NANGUAQ, a Taiwanese Indigenous label, highlighted how contemporary artists are integrating diverse music genres. “Today, young Indigenous people are influenced by R&B, African-American music, gospel, hip-hop, electronic music, K-pop, and others.”

While these artists draw inspiration from varied sources, they also honor traditional wisdom. Mani (Dremedreman), a musician from NANGUAQ, emphasized the importance of elders in preserving cultural heritage: “My auntie once said, ‘While we’re still here, learn as much as you can from us about whatever you want!’”

Professor Jonathan P. J. Stock from University College Cork said that awards like the GMAs can help bring more attention to these artists, “Getting a nomination is a huge pick-up. Winning an award can make a singer feel validated for several years.”

While some Taiwanese Indigenous artists explore themes of revitalization of cultural heritage and ecological advocacy, others choose to remain apolitical in their music. “Some are all about having a good time, but at the same time inflect popular music with the use of Austronesian languages,” said DJ W. Hatfield, an associate professor at National Taiwan University. “Musically, they are all over the board and do not necessarily riff on or allude to traditional music.”

“As a Taiwanese indigenous person, I am proud. The uniqueness of Taiwan’s indigenous music stems from nurturing many different ethnic groups and languages on a small island,” said Kivi, a musician from NANGUAQ.

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