The sound of Jade Mountain
Vox Nativa Children’s Choir is a remarkable musical group from the Jade Mountain area in Nantou County. It is not only famous for the childrens’ musical abilities, but also because of its background. It is part of the Vox Nativa Music School, a weekend school that was founded to help children from the indigenous Bunun tribe learn self-confidence and improve their academic skills through singing.
Vox Nativa has two main social goals. The first is social reform of the poverty-stricken indigenous communities by helping gifted children. Over eighty per cent of them are from lower income families, but attending Vox Nativa helps them succeed in school, and increase their chances of attending college and becoming community leaders. The second is promoting and preserving Bunun culture, pride, and identity.
Students attend 11 different elementary schools during the week, and Vox Nativa at the weekends and holidays. Students can only attend if they have completed their normal school homework and are not late for practice. It is difficult, but the students are dedicated. Some travel an hour and a half just to attend classes.
Moreover, the school helps with more than academic grades. When the school meets during vacations, students do not have parents around and must take responsibility for themselves. Despite the stereotype of indigenous people being good singers, they must diligently practice and maintain an ethos of hard work. The performances also give students self-confidence and their trips away to perform help open their eyes to the world – the choir has performed in Taipei, Shanghai, and even toured the United States.
The choir has won praise and awards. They have played with the National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan, and at the Shanghai Expo their singing was described as “the sound of Heaven.” The traditional attire they wear while performing also shows their pride in their culture. Their repertoire includes traditional songs such as the clapping song “Kipahpah Ima” and Bunun hunting song “Pislahi,” and concerts are accompanied by videos of their daily life so the audience will understand their background.
The founder of Vox Nativa is an elementary school principal, Bukut Tasvaluan. Originally a sports teacher, he decided that singing together would give children the self-confidence they needed to succeed. He hopes it will prevent them from seeing themselves as second-rate citizens and help them gain control over their lives. His hopes seem to be coming true – graduates from Vox Nativa have even went on to study at Taiwan National University, the nation’s most prestigious university … (read more)