Interview with MAFANA: Freedom and Possibilities Created Through Fusion


A multicultural band, MAFANA is comprised of members from Amis and Paiwan indigenous tribes, with other members being of Han Taiwanese descent. Their name MAFANA is taken from an Amis tribe word, which has two definitions: "know" and "Don't know". The word was chosen to signify how the band is confident, but at the same time humble about their musical ambitions.

MAFANA was first invited to be part of the showcase at World Music Festival Taiwan in 2018, and attracted the attention of several international curators with their performance.  They have again been requested to play at this year's World Music Festival Taiwan, and we have arranged for this interview to have them talk about what they want to bring to the stage this year, and reveal some information regarding their upcoming material.

This will be the second time for MAFANA to play at World Music Festival Taiwan, and you will be playing on the Island Stage this time. How do you feel about it, comparing to the first time?

We are really honored to be invited again this year, but this also meant that we were quite nervous when we found out we would be playing the Island Stage this year.

The World Music Festival has artists and curators from around the world participate. What do you plan to show them this year? Could you maybe share a little bit about what you have prepared for this year's performance?

The first time we played at World Music Festival last year, we opted to do an acoustic set. This time we plan to play a complete set, demonstrating that a successful infusion of rock music and indigenous lyrics can be achieved.

You have members from different ethnic backgrounds, including Amis and Paiwan indigenous tribes and Han Taiwanese. How has this influenced the band's creative process? Can you tell us a bit in regards to the creative process?

The various ethnic backgrounds have actually helped us achieve more possibilities though infusion. As for the creative process, the two vocalists usually initiate the process, and the rest of the band joins for composing.

From a Western cultural perspective, indigenous music is often considered part of the "World Music" genre. With that said, MAFANA also infuses elements of rock and rap music, how do you guys identify your own music?

This is something that was quite confusing for us at first, but we've been really dedicated to the idea of infusing different musical elements, and we feel that this fusion has become part of our band's identity. If we really had to come up with a name or genre for our music, maybe just calling it "free music" would be the best!

Continuing the previous question, MAFANA has a multiethnic background and musical elements. How do you feel when the media uses terms like "Indigenous Rock" and "TaiKe Rock"?  If you had to describe MAFANA's music in one sentence, what would it be?

These terms used by the media don't really bother us, but we do feel that we are more than just a rock band, as we also have a lot of pride and respect of our traditional heritage and music. If we were to describe our music in one sentence, perhaps we would simply call it "unlimited freedom".

MAFANA seems to have had a pretty busy year, as you have played at many festivals around Taiwan this year. Could you tell us if there was any particular festival that left a lasting impression on you?

It was probably the PengHu Rock Festival! There was a beach cleanup activity as part of it, and it was something that we, as a band that often advocates for environmental awareness, were really touched by.

Aside from garnering praise at the World Music Festival, MAFANA also seems to have a growing overseas fan base. What part of your music do you think has helped to transcend the language and cultural gaps?

Probably our vocalists' voices that have been blessed by the tribe's ancient spirits and the traditional chorus arrangements we have in our songs.

You released a new track in early September, was there a new concept or genre that the band incorporated? How did your fans react to the new song?

The new song that we released was actually about being home sick, and most of the concepts related to our new material revolve around reflections of daily life, and being a drifter far away from home. Style wise we also tried to infuse some elements that we hadn't had the chance to before, and we also put a greater emphasis on traditional aboriginal choir singing. The reaction from fans was mixed, with some loving how we continue to try new things, and others feeling that we sounded too different from our old material. With that said, we could still tell that the fans were generally enthusiastic about the new material we have been working on.

Last but not least, could you share any plans MAFANA has for the near future?

MAFANA is scheduled to release a new EP towards the end of October, and we are preparing for a new album and tour next year.


Interviewed by Azo
Translated by Andrew Hsieh