When you think of jazz, Taipei and its riverside neighborhood of Dadaocheng might not immediately come to mind. But the music genre that came out of African American communities in New Orleans and the trading port’s heyday in the 19th and early 20th centuries were contemporaries.
The district, which is one of Taipei’s most vibrant areas, is home to the annual Dadaocheng International Festival of Arts, which draws on Dadaocheng’s historic roots while embracing music, arts, and culture from Taiwan, the United States, and around the globe.
Now in its 12th year, the festival will be held at a range of venues from October 1-29. Its abbreviation, TTTIFA, references the area’s name rendered in Taiwanese Hokkien – Twatutia, or Tōa-tiū-tiâ.
Part of TTTIFA is the Music Global program, which focuses on the culture-bridging art of jazz in particular and music in general. Musicians from across Taiwan, the United States, and elsewhere will gather in Dadaocheng for Music Global, taking part in performances, discussions, roundtables, dances, and concerts.
The festivities kick off on October 15 with an opening concert featuring Sauljaljui (戴曉君 Dai Xiaojun), a Golden Melody Award-winning singer and songwriter from Pingtung County in Taiwan’s south. Sauljaljui blends elements from her indigenous Paiwan heritage and Taiwanese folk music with Latin American beats and rhythms, utilizing diverse instruments from guitars to nose flutes to the Australian didgeridoo.
Also featured in the opening concert is jazz collective Zy the Way, an international group with Taiwanese, Australian, and American members. The Taipei-based collective innovatively reinterprets 3,000-year-old Confucian poetry with voice, drums, piano, bass, and woodwinds.
“Music Global is thrilled to be able to showcase artists who are coming to Taipei from the United States as well as those from Taiwan who have truly unique and developed musical identities,” says Music Global Co-Director Chou Chia-hui. “These are people whose voices are strong, relevant, timeless, and who either already have a place in the musical history books or are on their way there.”
Those interested in the history and importance of jazz as a cultural movement and mechanism for change can turn to one of many free Artist Talks and roundtables, featuring musicians such as jazz pianist Aaron Goldberg, described by The New York Times as a “post-bop pianist of exemplary taste and range,” and Connected, a New York duo formed during the pandemic and in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Goldberg’s talk “What Makes Jazz So Special?” will be of particular interest to attendees with less exposure to the genre, while Connected will be exploring topics covering intercultural music, the spirit of freedom in jazz, and how prejudice, discrimination, and the creative process are often inextricably linked. Artists will gather on October 21 for a roundtable to discuss how jazz has in many instances served to build and strengthen cross-cultural communities.
“What we want to accomplish with the Artist Talks and the Artists Roundtable is to foster community engagement and build bridges between people with music,” says Music Global Director Matt Fullen. “Music itself connects people to each other, but sometimes we need more context and a verbal exchange of ideas in order to connect with the music and each other more deeply, whether it be in the realm of art or in a sociopolitical sense.”
Rounding out the headlining acts is Sheridan Zuther, co-producer of the Broadway show Rent, who will be joining one of Asia’s premier music groups – TPO Band, directed by Taiwan-based transplant and woodwinds expert Jim Geddes.