The experimental indigenous rock band from Taiwan talks about the notion of creating music.
Dear music lovers, How’ve you been? Outlet Drift has recently joined WIND MUSIC Label for artist management and music licensing and has chosen to be performing on the stage of the 34th Golden Melody Award (Jun 28 - 30, 2023) in Taiwan. With this chance, we have the pleasure to interview an impressive group of musicians. Let’s see how they reach the standing point now and their prospect on artistic expectation.
Outlet Drift, an indigenous experimental band from Taiwan, is composed of:
Wushang Pihay (guitar/jaw harp/synthesizer/ percussion/ vocals)
Putad Pihay (bass/kabosi/tapelik/ djembe/vocals)
Linken (drums/percussion/ vocals).
For the past century, indigenous communities in Taiwan had been suffering from colonization, poverty, and the loss of language and culture for generations. During the process of modernization, many of the basic rights of indigenous communities were neglected, overlooked, sacrificed, or even intentionally and unjustly impaired under the national policy. This led to the struggle of indigenous communities on an unfair level of social economic status, especially when groups of people left their own territory and move to the cities seeking employment. Many of them were oppressed under such social injustice and structural discrimination.
Who They Are The members of Outlet Drift were deeply influenced by the anxiety and a sense of rootlessness from their ancestry. “Drift” represents the state of living for generations of their community. It stands for the struggling encounter of their parents losing self-identity and the nomadic soul in the urban scenario. On the other hand, the word for “Outlet” in the Amis language is “Cepo’.“, which also means the estuary. It stands for the determination and the direction of the band not only to rediscover their cultural inheritance and self-identity but also to transform them with endless energy into artistic production, music, and the philosophy of life. It is what defines themselves and their music.
Three members are siblings and cousins. They grew up together sharing a common interest in dancing and the preference of Michael Jackson’s music. Street and hip-hop culture was what attracted them and filled up their youth. Through the dance, they gradually landed on music with a strong rhythm and pulse. There were not many thoughts and plans at the beginning about where the band should head to. With no fundament in music, they practice and write songs at an instrument store where Wushang worked at Kaohsiung. Though everything was new to the rookies, it eventually turned out to be a match among the three members. This is the turning point when the members started to take their careers seriously.
A Musical Experiment
If you’re a fan of Outlet Drift, you’ll likely notice at once the dazzling variations of their music styles and elements including rhythm, tempo, timbre, languages, beats, and volume, even within one song. With that musical alternation, distinctive and different sensations will be discovered and experienced every time you listen to their music, even if it is the same song. Each of the members is widely inspired by many genres of music at various stages of their life. These ideas will be shared with each other and put into the new songs. "Living in Taitung often means that you have to obtain raw material locally, and make the most of everything," said Wushang. Whenever musical elements appear in their mind, they would just take them out and make a musical experiment. The process of endless arguing and amending the song-writing requires not only immense patience for the members but also a highly skilled sound engineering and setting. That's where their technician Kanji Kawabata shows his capability.
Kanji provides hand-made electric guitar, bass, Vacuum tube AMP, effectors, etc, for the band. "When you have so many elements jumbled up into the music and still need the sound layers to be clear to reflect on every idea put in, you'll understand how important the technician is," said Putad. Kanji helped the band set up the sound, instruments, and equipment before every recording session. He is the keyman who lets the musicians freely deconstruct and reconstruct themselves through music.
Outlet Drift: Lady of the Ocean
Language - The Soul Lies Within The revival of minority languages is a topic that gradually receives public attention in recent years. Like many of the lost generations of the indigenous community in the city, Putad grew up in a Mandarin-speaking environment and thus writes songs with a Mandarin-thinking approach. When she returns to the village where her parents come from, she immediately senses the crisis of losing her mother tongue. Polyphony is an important tradition of Amis music. The accent, alternative phrases, function words, and even the emotion, and dance movements that come following are equally essential to build a picture of Amis music. The choice of language is crucial to demonstrate the distinctive and valuable music culture. Only the mother tongue can lead them to their ancestors' roots and experience their legacy. From the viewpoint of making music, it leans an unknown territory to the members using the Amis language as opposed to Mandarin. But connections between the retrospective and the prospective of Outlet Drift's root, tradition, and origin can be built through this bold and ambitious attempt.
The band has experience touring in Europe. The setup of equipment is the main issue that should be overcome during the tour. Outlet Drift sets a high bar for the quality of sound and always brings its instruments, microphones, AMPs, and even a PA control board. Kui is their most reliable soundman who waves his magic wand and makes all the sound work even when facing an unfamiliar venue.
The band hopes to produce more self-made traditional instruments including bamboo xylophone, bamboo drums, and jaw harp, and add them to the music. In addition, the continuous exploration of their own culture and the beauty of language is a non-stop experimental process. "As long as you are in the loop of the rhythm, you will ultimately discover the sound you wanted," said Putad. Outlet Drift recently joined the WIND MUSIC label to develop international show business. With 12 years of experience struggling with administrative details on their own, Outlet Drift specifically pointed out the relief feeling they gained from this collaboration and can thus put more energy and focus on creating more music. Outlet Drift is very proud to present its new-established cultural and musical tradition to international audiences. Let us see how the phenomenon rises.