For years, the Golden Melody Awards (GMAs) have put the music of Taiwan's indigenous people in the spotlight. At this year's event, Makav, a member of Taiwan's indigenous Bunun tribe, secured the coveted title of “Best New Artist.”

“I'm really grateful! I hope I can encourage other 20-year-old musicians to pursue their musical ideas and bring them to life,” said Makav diversity.

Taiwan's 16 indigenous tribes make up just 2% of the population, but young Gen Z artists like Makav are enthusiastically blending international influences, sparking a revival of genuine local music across Taiwan. “When I make music, I mix English, Bunun and Chinese and sing in a way that feels natural, but I always have to incorporate my native language because native languages ​​are very cool,” she said.

“More and more people are getting involved in the creation of indigenous music in Taiwan,” Makav said. And indeed, indigenous musicians were prominently featured in several categories at the GMAs, securing awards in the Best Vocal Group (O-Kai Singer) and Best Taiwanese Language Album (Panai Kusui's “I?-Pô”) categories, as well as recognition in the Indigenous Languages ​​category.

ABAO, founder of NANGUAQ, a Taiwanese label for indigenous artists, highlighted how contemporary artists integrate different music genres. “Today, young indigenous people are influenced by R&B, African-American music, gospel, hip-hop, electronic music, K-pop and others.”

While these artists draw inspiration from different sources, they also honor traditional wisdom. Mani (Dremedreman), a musician from NANGUAQ, emphasized the importance of elders in preserving cultural heritage: “My aunt once said: 'While we are still here, learn as much as you can from us about anything you want!'”

Professor Jonathan PJ Stock of University College Cork said awards like the GMAs can help bring more attention to these artists: “A nomination is a huge win. Winning an award can make a singer feel recognised for several years.”

While some Taiwanese indigenous artists explore issues such as cultural heritage revitalization and environmental advocacy, others remain apolitical in their music. “Some are just about having fun, but at the same time they add a certain touch to pop music by using Austronesian languages,” says DJ W. Hatfield, an associate professor at National Taiwan University. “Musically, they are very versatile and don't necessarily draw on or allude to traditional music.”

“As a Taiwanese aborigine, I am proud. The uniqueness of Taiwanese indigenous music comes from cultivating many different ethnic groups and languages ​​on a small island,” said Kivi, a musician from NANGUAQ.

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