Other practices register in song differently configured landscapes or engage in types of assertion.
For example, the milikir, a Cepo’ Pangcah song associated with travel along Taradaw, produces a sense of place distinct from the ordinary contexts of road travel and Settler administrative hierarchies. Because the song, like most traditional Pangcah songs, has only vocables as lyrics, improvised additions to the lyrics as well as different versions of the song layer this sense of place with assertions concerning the meanings of Taradaw and its history for social relationships today.
Here I contrast three versions of this song to demonstrate how the song registers history for the community and in relationship to other groups.
Milikir is the active voice verbal form of likir, a cognate of likid, which means to tumble or speed down a rapidly flowing river. Milikir thus has the connotation of shooting the rapids.
When asked about this song, most people who can sing it will point out this context. It was a song to accompany raft travel downstream. Rafts once served as the main means of transportation across the Coast Ranges, plying the river from Cepo’ to Ruisui and down again. Travel upriver depended on young men on a narrow path pulling the rafts upstream. Travel downstream was more rapid, of course, but perhaps more dangerous.
Where now whitewater rafts convey tourists from Ruisui downward to waiting a restaurant and gift shop beneath the New Canghong Bridge, rafts manned by Cepo’s youth once carried timber, finished industrial products, and any other goods people needed downriver to the niyaro’. Today as one stands on the bridge one can make out two sonic worlds: one the world of the tourist economy, dominated by Settler businesspeople, features the often surprised and sometimes gleeful shouts of tourists and the buzz of outboard engines; the other of people working the lagoon at Cawi’ and Laeno, is made of the songs and conversations as they fish.
These worlds are more overlapping than adjacent, however. Catching fish fry and larvae in triangular nets in the river mouth is a cash economy as well as a way to get one’s breakfast. Several men in the Cepo’ communities also work as boat guides and lifeguards for the rafting companies. One can just make it over the mountains to Ruisui in time to work after an early morning in the lagoon. When conditions are right, working as a lifeguard on the boat provides some income to supplement the other ways one might make a living around Cepo’.
version one: ciMeilice
One afternoon, a boat guide and his mother, ciMeilice, with whom I often fished in the lagoon, took me on a zodiac raft from the lagoon upriver past the crystalline rock formations on a pool above the river’s descent to the old bridge. Once we were above the first rapids, in a large open area where the river ran swift but clear, we stopped to hear the birds calling above the sound of river and falling creeks. ciMeilice began to sing the milikir. Although the song is in vocables with improvised lyrics, these added lyrics generally encourage the crew on its journey, naming features of the landscape along the way. The lyrics are often humorous; today, they may also call attention to the role of Taradaw in the community’s history.
The melodic contour of milikir moves the voice from the dominant upward to the tonic and again upward a major fourth before cascading downward to the tonic an octave below. Most of the movement contrasts upward stepwise and downward stepwise movement with skips covering a fourth or a fifth.
CiMeilice embellished her version of the song with an ornament on the last phrases of stanzas, in which she filled the stepwise falling eighth note and dotted quarter pattern with shimmering triplets. She also preferred to slide through the notes in a glissando, even as she tightened the movement and replaced the more common syllables “Haiyan” with “O Hehe.”
Her improvised lyrics, chanted in monotone, animated the part of a leader of a raft telling his fellow youths “Be strong! We are bringing home wood, logs, and bamboo to build houses in our village. Be strong! [kapah no niyaro’ / sa’icelen ita / panokay ko kilang, a’ol, ato datong / sapisanga’ to loma’ i niyaro’ ita / sa’icelen ita]”
Aware that I was recording her singing (and that she might later appear in a sound installation I was preparing at the Cepo’ Arts Center in Laeno), she added her interpretation of the song in relation to local social organization. Our people, ciMeilice said, depend on and value shared labour (mipapaliw). In the past, before the road was built, the most important organization for collective endeavors, such as transporting building materials, was the age set organization, which is still active today. The age set organized mobilized youth for the work. Part of this mobilization, the song encouraged the young men to overcome their fear of the rapids. As an environmental activist who fished the lagoon a few times a week, the guide’s mother placed Taradaw within the networks of shared labour (papaliw) that she highlighted in her remarks. That summer, she also mobilized other people who fished the lagoon as “netizens” who shared labour for environmental assessment, shellfish population management, and clean up work. Her milikir, performed on a zodiac in the midst of Taradaw, was meant to enroll me in this ethical relationship to the river.
version two: ciRahic
If ciMeilice focuses on the age set organization and practices of shared labour in her version, ciRahic holds a special affection for milikir as a song through which he communicated to Taradaw during a fierce typhoon in which a landslide nearly swept him away. He thought he would likely drown at his studio, as did his mother:
“My mother had already planned to send my little brother to find my body,” ciRahic told me,
“But I sang to the river and pleaded that I live. I still had much to accomplish!”
Rahic’s version of milikir creates textural contrasts of soaring glissando movements on phrases with skipping motion and nearly staccato articulation on the stepwise falling motion of each verse’s cadence. At times, his tight articulation in these cadences resembles sighing or relaxing after a period of exertion.
As this song is one of Rahic’s favorites, his set of lyrics is broad. On a several occasions listening, recording, or performing milikir with Rahic, I have noticed how his lyrics range from humourous, teasing lines about being cast overboard and mistaking a raftmate’s penis for an eel—humour is always a good way to stare down fear, ciRahic explains–to those describing the hardships of the travel through the rapids.
He also sings lyrics that describe Taradaw in historical terms as pirakatan no mato’asay the road the old people—here, ancestors—walked.
In these lyrics, Rahic grieves that today, Taradaw has largely been forgotten, left to tourists.
Simsi:m sa ko faloco’ ako, aya:, widang!
rueful thinking QUOT NCM.NOM heart GEN.1S, aya, friend!
My heart thinks ruefully on it, aya, friend!
Yet, following the pattern of the song, Rahic’s milikir usually ends with an exhortation to the listener: “Take what we give you as materials to build a beautiful niyaro’” (ala’en ko sapaini niyam itamoyanan, sapisanga’ to fangcalay niyaro’).
As an animation of milikir, these lyrics address the listener as members of the community, who will build together. Thus, CiRahic stresses in his version that “Taradaw is the livelihood of the People” (o saka’orip no tamdaw ko Taradaw ), bidding listeners to participate in such a world. However, he extends his vision metaphorically, voicing, along with the river, a sense that no one walks Taradaw any longer.
I suspect that this this acquaintance with Taradaw is distinct from the experience of driving to Ruisui along the road above the river and certainly very different from the life experiences of most people living in Cepo’ today, for whom the Coastal Highway (Rt 11) to Hualien or Changbin is more salient, more a component of everyday itineraries for work or leisure.
Today the river belongs mostly to the tourists.
The sounds of outboard motors dominate the river today, participating in Settler transfer of Taradaw to adventure tourism. But Taradaw can still call to us in song. When we milikir, do we hear an echo of a life now diminished, our habits transformed by settler governments and their hierarchy of central places?
Milikir maintains the resonance of a riparian economy that once linked Pangcah communities between the Rift Valley and the Pacific Coast, those who communicated and traded along Taradaw. We hear echoes of this system in the family resemblances of ritual musics along the river; yet the reality of Settler occupation has meant that Pangcah today are less oriented to the river than to the routes and networks that link them to Hualien, the major administrative center, and to schools, stores, and township offices in Fongbin or Changbin.
Milikir reminds us, if we allow it, that this hierarchy of places is a relatively novel feature, an adjunct of the Settler state. Milikir might then conjure a world in which the river was central. Complicating this awareness is our knowledge that the Siuguluan River was always a mediating space. Ruisui had long been an outpost of Settler merchants, and the Coast Range and Rift Valley was home to groups whose relationships with Pangcah were sometimes friendly but often hostile. Yet, Milikir could create a kind of “shared subjunctive” (Seligman et al. 2008) in which singers and listeners reclaim Taradaw as a mediating (and life giving) space, the center of a Pangcah world.
version 3: ciAnu
This use of milikir as assertion is also notable when we listen to an example of its appearance in inter-ethnic contexts, such as the production of contemporary Indigenous popular music, the audience for which includes other Indigenous Peoples and the Settler population as well as ‘Amis / Pangcah.
In his 2013 album, Cepo’, Cepo’ Pangcah (Makota’ay) singer songwriter Anu Kaliting Sadipongan performed a version of milikir with lyrics cowritten with Arik, also of Makota’ay. The most striking quality of the Anu version is that there are fixed lyrics throughout rather than vocables with improvised lyrics chanted between melodic lines. Anu sings only the first phrase of each verse in vocables.
In this version with lyrics, Makota’ay relationships to riyar and taradaw are spelled out for a possibly unfamiliar audience. However, rather than the resonance of riparian trade and travel, ancestral journeys and occupation echo throughout Anu’s version.
The first of the song’s five stanzas establishes the narrative through reference to the legend of ciNakaw and ciSra, the sister and brother who became ancestors of Pangcah:
Iya ho haiyan ha o haiyan ha hey heyan
Paw-paw saan ko totang i riyar
Bobbing/floating QUOT NCM.NOM tiny.raft LOC ocean
Awa-ay ko pa-tosok-an
None-ASP NCM.NOM CAUS-goal-LOC
O siya siya sa ko tamokis to lafii
FAC siya siya [sound of waves moving] QUOT NCM.NOM little.waves NCM.ACCUS night
Miki-hatiya ko faloco’ a ma-rarom
Add/concentrate-that way NCM.NOM heart/mind CONN PV-sadness
Mi-nanay ko pa-tosok-an
AV-wish NCM.NOM CAUS-goal-LOC
The tiny bark floated in the ocean
With no destination in sight
Sloughing, the whitecaps patted it through the night
Adding to their sadness
How they wished for a destination
Moreover, the Anu version begins, tellingly, with the sound of the ocean, which alone occupies the first 13 seconds of the recording. Above this sound, we hear the first verse sung by an elderly woman. A bass drone, tuned to the tonic enters at the end of the phrase to lafii, all evening. The drone continues, shifting after four beats to a minor third and then, four beats later, back to the tonic.
From the first verse’s description of floating in the troubled ocean, longing to set one’s eyes on a place to land, the lyrics turn to the couple’s first sight of Cepo’ and their settlement there. As the second verse begins, synth notes begin to fill the background. Anu’s voice enters on the second line of the second verse, in which the couple land at Cepo’, sending out new leaves who will become the ancestors of Pangcah people. As his voice doubles the elderly woman’s, a guitar vamp and drums enter. The elderly woman’s voice drops out of the mix, and Anu’s voice comes to the center.
The lyrics then describe Taradaw and riyar as the source of life for Cepo’ Pangcah and assert that the village’s laws and ritual continue from the ancestors to the present day. This last phrase, rayray tahaanini, transmitted or passed down to this moment, forms a caesura for the first three stanzas, after which the last two stanzas take up the history of the 1877 Cepo’ Incident and the settlement of Siuguluan Pangcah across the Coast Ranges to the Rift Valley and to the north and south of Cepo’.
The song concludes with a description of the descendants of ciNakaw and ciSra cultivating the land and remembering their ancestors “to this very day” rayray tahaanini. In order to underscore this transmission of ancestral presence, Anu repeats this last phrase, rayray tahaanini, rayray tahaanini.
In this fashion, the two sections of the song establish the song’s resonance
for an inter-ethnic audience.
For listeners who read a paraphrase of the lyrics into Mandarin in the CD liner notes or—more likely—on the subtitles of the video to “Cepo’” (as Anu’s version of milikir is titled), the song sounds out in Anu’s mother tongue a Pangcah history of relationships to the land and struggle against Qing Imperial armies, a stand in for forces now bent on wresting the land from Pangcah people, such as corporate developers and their allies in the settler state. In Anu’s version, the song locates ancestral presence as a source radiating forward and outward “to this very day” in which Anu and other Cepo’ Pangcah struggle for full control of the ocean and river which has from the time of the ancestors sustained them.
Hence, the resonance of Anu’s version differs from Rahic’s or Milice’s versions, in which a discursively unelaborated but sensed memory of Taradaw opposes the Settler hierarchy of places in the present. Registering in the lyrics present threats on Cepo’ as analogous to the Qing invasion in 1877, it is a call to struggle as well as an assertion of Pangcah sovereignty “to this very day.” In this sense, Anu’s version engages in a kind of symbolic reduction, at least for those who attend to the lyrics.
Apart from the lyrics, the mix in which Anu’s voice enters as a doubling of an elderly woman’s voice and eventually fades into the ocean, suggests the traditional provenance of the song, as if Anu learned the song from the elderly woman.
The video underlines this narrative, showing an elderly woman sitting on a bench overlooking the ocean and a little boy who learns the song by singing along. At the conclusion of the video, Anu—in the video the boy now grown into youth—returns to this place where he learned the song. This narrative, of course, is anachronistic as Anu co-wrote the lyrics.
The video and mix thus situate Anu’s singer songwriter practice within a deeper, more traditional pedigree than record labels and competitions in Taipei.
However, Anu’s version of milikir does more than that; the lyrics give voice to a song of riverine travel, understood among Cepo’ Pangcah as constituting their relationship to place, making this song speak as an assertion of continued Pangcah presence in Cepo’ and in other communities where the descendants of Nakaw and Sra dispersed. That one can find these communities even in Taypak might be a hidden subtext of Anu’s milikir.
These three versions adopt different strategies for different audiences, yet maintain a connection to taradaw as a sounded and sounding presence in Cepo’ Pangcah history. All are thus responses to occupation