i’m usually not prone to nostalgia–after all, one of my major arguments is that because soundscapes and musical practices when living constantly evolve, it is best not too quickly to cling to neo-traditionalist positions, or at least neo-traditionalist positions that remain unreflexively aware of their historical contingency. nonetheless, i do mourn those with whom i have sung. and i do wonder, sometimes, whether voices vanish as formerly widespread modes of voice production become unfashionable. the songs might be transmitted, but not the feeling, neither the grain of the voice nor the context in which the song resonated. last month kakitaan pan cing-ten left us. we kaemangay, wawa no niyaro’, could not learn enough from him for that voice to remain among us

during the last two years, that voice had already been shushed as village politics forced him to make the decision not to participate in the annual kiloma’an festival. last year, i asked kakitaan ci pan cing-ten whether he would lead the village dancing, singing the call for the malikoda dance at the climax of each day’s festivities. “i’m thinking about it, still thinking about it,” he said, eyes filling with tears. we missed the opportunity to hear him then and will not have another chance to sing the response to his vibrant, clear voice

pan cing-ten was extraordinary as a singer, but his voice had a context that also marked his life as diverging from that of his peers in ‘atolan. although as a child he watched the family water buffalo after school, he was an athletic youth. i remember that when i first met him, he was casting nets below pacifalan, a bottle of paolyta b beside him. he was already an elder. his muscles mocked his age, but having a few years on most men, he was able to read the ocean, seeing schools of fish where most would only see a slight difference in color. later, he told me that when he was finishing middle school, ‘amis olympic medalist c.k. yang wanted to recruit him for training. “who knows?” kakitaan joked, “if i had gone to high school, i might have gone to america, too. i would have met your grandfather.” as it turned out, his parents needed him at home to tend agricultural land. so he stayed in ‘atolan and kept a hand in farming the rest of his life. while his age mates signed up for far ocean fishing, working three year stints on boats calling at capetown and las palmas, he remained at home. the generation just older than pan cing-ten came of age before the advent of christian missions; staying at home meant not just that he had to “tend the flock” for his age mates–keeping his age mates’ wives and girlfriends from running off with soldiers–but that he also could learn an entire corpus of ritual and other musics. thus while his age mates gathered cosmopolitan experiences, he kept a traditional voice

nonetheless, pan cing-ten was also one of many innovators. he could describe the context in which songs connected to agricultural or ritual cycles were once sung, but sang these songs for a variety of performances. he also recorded several songs in dance arrangements for a local record label. he was always aware of ‘amis vocal music as a living tradition, and while careful to respect ritual musics, did adapt and transform vocal music for the contexts of cultural representation, protest, and pleasure. fans of panai kusui will recognize pan cing-ten’s voice from panai’s 2008 album “the message,” in which kakitaan ci cing-ten sings a traditional song of watching an ox in the field, here placed in an electronic setting. kakitaan was connected to tradition, but not a “traditionalist” in the sense of placing himself in a museum. in this respect, he resembles his age mates, even as he is rightly regarded as a traditional musician and living cultural treasure

in 2012, i wanted to record kakitaan ci cing-ten performing the fourteen songs associated with kiloma’an. originally, the plan was to videotape dancers full body, with another videotape of only the feet, plus the kakitaan singing the calls and responses. the purpose was for teaching youths who live in kaohsiung or taipei. at the time, he joked about the three hundred million NT copyright fee, but was also serious about not wanting the songs to circulate too far outside the community: after all, these songs are sacred, a means to communicate with the ancestors. after telling me why we couldn’t do the project, however–and with my mics on–he took my hand and called all of us at his house that evening to dance, singing each of the kiloma’an songs in turn. he was generous in this way, always willing to teach in person. but how many kaemangay had the time or inclination to visit him and listen as he did as a youth?

last summer, i was fortunate again to record the kakitaan. he told me not only how to build a traditional thatch house and about the fire that destroyed nearly all of the village (he was in taitung city watching a track meet and returned to a village of smoking ashes and wailing dogs), but related much of his story of farming, driving trucks, and looking after his age mates’ families as they far oceaned. when i wanted to record stories of pacifalan, he insisted that we go to pacifalan in person. sitting in the talowan there, he gave the history of the site from the dutch period onward, finally blessing my work with a prayer to the ancestors at pacifalan. his voice is one of the central voices in my 2016 work o wahidang no riyar

it is difficult to describe the timbre of kakitaan ci cing-ten’s voice. his range was, of course, the first thing most of us noticed: he could sing higher than just about anyone we knew in a resonant head voice, but he also had a low register. more important, perhaps, than just the range was the feel. listening to him, one began to know how a voice can swell and surge like ocean waves, unfold like ferns in the forest, shimmer like the sun over paddy land. now that voice is gone. i was honored for a brief time to listen, record, and learn

i leave the following link as my memory of kakitaan, faki ci cing-ten leading us in the malikoda. may his memory be a blessing

pan cing-ten talks about learning to sing (in chinese):

faki ci cing-ten