David Darling Records with the Wulu Bunun

San Francisco, USA – The album Mudanin Kata (World Music Network UGCD1032
) unites singers from the Wulu Bunun people of Taiwan with the sounds of cello
pioneer David Darling, to create a striking reinterpretation of an ancient
tradition. David Darling – a classical trained cellist – creates his own place
within the distinctive eight-part harmonic singing of the Wulu Bunun. Interwoven
around a range of singing styles, he melds his unique style of playing to
produce an album of intricate and beautiful sounds.
When working on Mudanin Kata, Darling spent time recording and composing
in Taiwan with the Wulu Bunun. The Wulu village of Bunun is located in the
southeastern part of Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range at over 700m above sea
level. Although the language and culture of Taiwan’s indigenous people –
including traditional Bunun methods of harmonizing – is rapidly disappearing
from the impact of modernization and the strong influence of a primarily Han
Chinese culture, because of Wulu’s relative isolation it is currently the most
unadulterated of all the Bunun villages. With only sixty households in the
village, Wulu is home to the most traditional styles of Bunun singing, and
before this project the Wulu Bunun had never heard their voices accompanied by
an instrument.

At the core of this extraordinary collaboration is the ancient Bunun tradition
of polyphonic choral singing. The unique singing of the Bunun originally caught
the attention of Western ethnomusicologists in the 1940s. ‘Pasibutbut’, the
Bunun people’s sacred song, with it’s unique eight-part harmony, negated the
theory that music originated in single-note melodies, progressing to two-note
harmonies, and then onto more complex arrangements. Said to be inspired by the
sounds of humming bees, a rushing waterfall, and the sounds made when crossing
through a pine or bamboo forest, ‘Pasibutbut’ has also been called the ‘sound of

Singing in harmony is an essential part of daily life for the Bunun people –
they sing while weaving, celebrating, drinking and hunting. They pass down and
record their culture and history in music and this album is built around the
traditional Bunun song repertoire, ranging from drinking songs to harvest
prayers. With hunting being a vital part of Bunun life, many songs are about
this, such as ‘Sima Cisbug Bav’ (traditionally sung after a hunt) and ‘Malkakiv
Malvanis’ (about how hunters will share the game after a big hunt).

Much of the music for Mudanin Kata was recorded in the surroundings of a
forest and valley in Taiwan, which cut outside interference to a minimum and
made full advantage of the natural sounds of the surroundings. Back in the
studio, a full string quintet was added to the Wulu Bunun’s polyphonic choral
singing and David’s cello. Layers of cello were added on top of this until it
became an integral part of the album – a vehicle of sorts to bring the voices
across from Taiwan.

Mudanin Kata now

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.