Southern Music Club of Jhen Hai Kung, Dongguang
Southern Music, a.k.a. Wind Band of South and Gentleman’s Music, is folk music of the Minnan region. However, fewer and fewer people study this music. This is why Southern Music Club has been striving to promote the learning of Southern Music since its inception over three years ago. Meanwhile, it spares no efforts in the utilization of community resources and the promotion of cultural activities.
Southern Music Club has been dedicating to the promotion and learning for a long time. Classes are offered at 7:30pm each Tuesday and Friday. Young and old people gather together and immerse themselves in the beauty of ancient music in Jhen Hai Kung. They study about ten musical instruments, such as Pipa, Three Strings, Erhu and Chinese flute. The Club invited masters Mr. Zhuo Shen-Xiang and Ms. Lin Su-Mei to be the instructors. Both of them are well-known Southern musicians in southern Taiwan. Fu Meimie (from mainland China) was later invited to be the teacher. To encourage the participation of local residents, the Club offers musical instruments and teaching materials free-of-charge. Such are great efforts to enhance cultural activities in the community and the quality of life, as well as to maintain the musical tradition.
A funny saying goes that Wind Band of the North is tough so do not bother with it. Humorous as it may sound, it has some elements of truth. There are Southern Music, Wind Band of the North and Eight Hakka Music in the folk music of Taiwan. Among them, Southern Music is the most difficult one and almost disappeared in Taiwan. However, Mr. Hong in still works hard to preserve it. He invites teachers and organized classes. Even if there might not be a soul showing interest, he never gives up. His efforts have made Southern Music Club even more famous than Jhen Hai Kung.
Southern Music, also known as Wind Band of the South and Southern Tunes, is one of the oldest traditional music. It originated as palace music during the Kai Yuan period, golden age of the Tang Dynasty. Kangxi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty once beat with the music and declared that it was the imperial music. However, most folk musicians are not familiar with it because its level of difficulty. To keep this heritage of a thousand years alive, Jhen Hai Kung established Southern Music Club in 1994. Chairman of Jhen Hai Kung, Mr. Hong Quan-Rui, is the driving force. He specializes in Bamboo Flute, Transverse Flute and Suona. In addition to vocal, Mr. Hong is also the lead musical instrument player of Southern Music.
Southern Music is known for its grace and elegance, characteristics of the Wei-Jin Dynasty. It preserves the ancient form of performances. There are a total of ten musical instruments, i.e. Sound Lab, Suona, Pipa, Bamboo Flute, Two Strings, Three Strings, Double Bell, Thunder Lid, Gong and Four Treasures. Sound Lab, Pipa, Bamboo Flute, Two Strings and Three Strings are used for no-plugged singing, fingers and music tones. The addition of Double Bell, Thunder Lid and Four Treasures work with Suona can cheer the music up and make the tune festival. Southern Music consists of three divisions, fingers, tunes and music notes. This refers to the type of musical instruments. Lyrics and music notes consist of one set and there are a total of 48 sets. The tunes are for pure singing, with lyrics and music tones. They are either standalone tunes or in sets.
Music notes are for performance titles. A number of chapters form into a set. There are 12 sets internally and 4 sets externally; hence, there is an aggregation of 16 sets.
Southern Music comes from Qianzhou, Fujian Province. It was the hometown of early settlers of Donggang. They came from Zheng Chenggong in the late Ming Dynasty and early Qing Dynasty.
Hong Quan-Rui said that there was a small but similar club under Jhen Hai Kung before. The member of the old clubs practiced and performed on an irregular basis. As Donglong Temple in Donghang Township held a religious ceremony every three years, the performance of Southern Music was required to wait on the gods and served food to gods. The member of the old clubs performed on these occasions. This was why local residents placed considerate emphasis on Southern Music and how the tradition was kept alive. Thanks to the dedications of Mr. Hsu Wang-Chun, Mr. Hong Pai and Mr. Lao Shan. Mr. Hong recalled that when he was a child, he listened to and learned from these seniors sing in the absence of texts or musical notes. All they had were basic music instruments. Either gentle or emotional, these traditional tunes were part of early cultures and lives. To Mr. Hong, everything was still so memorable, as if there were only yesterday events. The emergence of TV and the introduction of Western culture were a big blow to traditional culture and music. The veterans died out and few people expressed an interest in learning Southern Music. As a result, a musical tradition of over one thousand years gradually withered.
Jhen Hai Kung organized a cultural festival in November 1994. The southern music concert was very well- received by locals. As the management committee of Jhen Hai Kung is committed to historical heritage and cultural innovations, it decided unanimously to establish Southern Music Club. This project received sponsorship from Mr. Sun Hsin-Hsin and assistance from Mr. Tsai Dong-Yuan, Director of Cultural Center, Pingtung County Government. However, the Club went through a rocky beginning due to budgetary constraints and sufficient talents. It was the commitment and dedication of founding members and the spiritual support of Seventh God of Thousand Years, the domicile god of Jhen Hai Kung, that saw the club through the early difficulties. The Club was then able to recruit members and offer classes free-of-charge.
The Club is fully aware the importance of good mentors. In the early days, famous masters Mr. Zhuo Shen-Xiang and Ms. Lin Su-Mei, were invited to give instructions in the evening on how to play the musical instruments and how to sing the tunes. A number of performances such as Han-Tang Yuefu and Sumptuous Feasting Song were organized. Meanwhile, the Club hosts a performance to demonstrate the learning results of members each year. This performance is free-of-charge to anybody who enjoys Southern Music. It also serves as a platform to encourage students to learn and explore. Mr. Zhuo Shen-Xiang and Ms. Lin Su-Mei laid out the foundation for the members and their efforts have resulted in an increase of the student body, coming from all the walks of life. The weekly practice and achievement sharing built a strong momentum.
In 2000, Southern Music Club invited Mr. Tsai Chi-Yuan, a veteran in the Taiwanese southern music industry. He had studied Southern Music for four decades and knows every tune by heart. His enthusiasm in teaching made students even more motivated. Their progress was well recognized in the concerts they held during the two subsequent years.
In April 2002, Mr. Tsai Chi-Yuan left for personal reasons. Southern Music Club of Jhen Hai Kung invited Fu Meimie, a famous musician from Fujian Province, China, to be the teacher. She is known as a master in Pipa, singing and acting. Her performance in the evening of October 9 in the concert held by Southern Music Club received great responses.
Hong Quan-Rui, Chairman of Southern Music Club, Jhen Hai Kung, invited Fu Meimei to be the instructor. She teaches 12 children at 8pm~11pm from Monday through Friday.
Fu Meimei, aged 45, is a teacher in Southern Music. She was born in Xiamen, Fujian Province. After graduation from Quanzhou First High School at the age of 18, she became a teaching in Southern Music Club of Quanzhou. She majored in Pipa. She has extensive experience. She represented The Chinese Southern Music Club to perform in the world art festival in Japan. She went to Changhe Langjun Club in the Philippines to perform in the South-East Assembly, as well as represented Minnan Music Society to perform in the National Concert Hall.
Fu Meimei married a Taiwanese husband and was allowed to settle in Taipei County, Taiwan. She remains committed in promoting Southern Music. She worked in Gang-a-tsui Theatre, Huichuan Southern Music Club, Wu Cyuan Elementary School in Taoyuan County and Beicheng Elementary School in Luodong Township, Ilan County. Fu Meimei performs frequently all over Taiwan.
Hong Quan-Rui provided generous assistance in the accommodation of Fu Meimei in Donggang during the time she was teaching in Southern Music Club. As Fu Meimie speaks Minnan (a dialect) and Mandarin, she has no problems in communicating. Her focus in teaching and the dedication of club members and students have led to a very good result. Fu Meimei is very pleased with it.
To protect the heritage of Southern Music Club, Mr. Hong initiated a collaborative teaching program by working with Mr. Tsai Zhi-Shan, schoolmaster of Beach Elementary School in the same community. They offer free classes in order to encourage young students to learn Southern Music. Of course, permission from parents is required for students to sign up. Mr. Hong hopes that Southern Music Club can keep this musical tradition alive and prosperous.