Inka Mbing (Tayal, Taiwan)

For the Tayal people, Ga-ga refers to the natural law of the universe. The Tayal deeply believe in one kind of power that comes from 'Yaba Utux Kayal', which means the origin of beings. The lives of our Tayal ancestors were tied to the movements of the earth: at sunrise they awoke an began to work; at sunset, they rested quietly. Body and soul coexisted in a peaceful, healthy balance, in accordance with the rhythms of nature.

Inka Mbing, one of Taiwan's most powerful indigenous voices, was born in 1954 in Jianshi Township, Hsinchu County. A member of the Tayal ethnic group, one of Taiwan's major aboriginal tribes, she was raised largely by her grandmother, and like many aboriginal youth, economic necessity forced her to leave her home village and go to the city to make a living. She spent her youth singing in restaurants, and she formed an all-female rock group in which she played bass and handled lead vocal duties.

Marriage and children resulted in a long departure from the music scene, but as the years passed Inka Mbing became active in Taiwan's indigenous rights movement. This eventually led to her re-involvement with music. The major earthquake that struck Taiwan on September 21, 1999 hit many Tayal mountain communities especially hard, and Inka Mbing became deeply involved in rebuilding efforts. Late that year, she and a group of other artists formed the musical collective Feiyu Yunbao (Flying Fish Cloud Leopard), which recorded a live album released in 2000 in a drive to raise funds for reconstruction of aboriginal communities devastated by the earthquake. The second track on the album was Inka Mbing's recording of "Ancient Teachings of the Tayal", her arrangement of a traditional song. Her powerful rendition was one of the album's key selling points, and it was this song that brought her to the attention of music listeners in Taiwan and abroad, marking the beginning of her current music career.

In her years with Feiyu Yunbao and in the time since the group's breakup, Inka Mbing began to move onto the world stage, performing at many world music festivals. She won a prize at the 2002 Uzbekistan World Music Festival, and in 2006 she was one of the performers in the side shows accompanying WOMEX. She has also gained recognition in Taiwan, in 2004 winning the Culture Disseminator award, and winning second prize in the 2007 Taiwan Original Music Awards for her song "Call of the Mountain". She also has performed at Taiwan's Migration Music Festival, organized by Trees Music. This year, she has released a solo album entitled Ga-ga on Trees Music, featuring a mix of original compositions and adaptations of traditional songs.

In recent years, Inka Mbing has spent a great deal of time and effort learning from the elders of her people. Among the many things they have taught her are a better understanding of the Tayal language, culture and philosophy of life. Over the years, she has collected many traditional Tayal folk songs from the Taoyuan and Hsinchu area, hoping to help preserve these songs for posterity. "Ancient Teachings of the Tayal" was only the first of many such songs she has performed. She makes use of traditional songs in many different ways, sometimes rearranging them, sometimes singing her own lyrics over traditional melodies, and sometimes using traditional lyrics with original melodies. She also is willing to go against cultural taboos, singing songs which traditionally were sung by men only. As for her lyrics, she sings about topics related to life in the traditional mountain communities of the Tayal, particularly from the perspectives of Tayal women.

Inka Mbing performs with a diverse group of talented musicians, including cellist Chen Chu-hui, wind instrumentalist and vocalist Sangpuy Katatepan (a member of Taiwan's Katatipul aboriginal group), vocalist Ngner-Ngner (a member of Taiwan's Paiwan aboriginal group), and percussionist and singer Yasui Inka, who is Inka Mbing's daughter. Chen Chu-hui and Ngner-Ngner are former members of Feiyu Yunbao, and the others have also played with Inka Mbing for some time, so the group has developed a great rapport, often improvising together on stage. For her recent project with Trees Music, she has been joined by Japanese guitarist Ken Ohtake and Indian percussionist Ramesh Shotham, whose unparalleled improvisational abilities fit perfectly with those of the others. This skilled group of musicians from a variety of musical backgrounds, topped by Inka Mbing's explosively powerful vocals, never fails to move those who hear them perform together.

Teacher, program host, cultural preservationist, songwriter and singer, Inka Mbing is a multitalented representative of one of Taiwan's most ancient cultures. Through her, Tayal culture and music is not only being preserved for future generations in Taiwan, but also being brought to fans of music all over the world. °]Translated by Eric Scheihagen°^

2008 Inka Mbing European Tour
07/03°@°@WDR Recording (Germany)
07/04-06°@°@TFF. Rudolstadt (Germany)
07/09-13°@°@Riddu Riddu Festival (Norway)

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