When Taiwanese indigenous choir meets R&B : Caiti Baker's "Slow Down" and Taiwu Ancient Ballads Troupe


Ever since Enigma sampled Taiwanese indigenous musician Kuo Ying-Nan (Difang Tuwana)'s music on their hit track "Return to Innocence" and publicly broadcasted at 1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta, Georgia, soon as the song lit up the stadium, Taiwanese indigenous music with such an unique vocal texture caught everyone's heart, and of course the beauty of the indigenous music was not only accepted by the audiences, but also beloved by the producer set in the control room of the music industry.

Australian R&B singer Caiti Baker released her latest album "Under Our Galaxy", the most eye-catching point of the album is the track "Slow Down" featuring Taiwu Ancient Ballads Troupe. There is a story behind the song collaboration long before it was released.

“In 2016, my partner James Mangohig went to Taiwan for the first time. I was on tour in Melbourne, in the middle of winter, rugged up and getting ready for what would be the first solid night of sleep since beginning the tour. 10pm Taiwanese time was midnight Melbourne time and I was just about to pass out when my phone alerted me of multiple video messages. I pulled my headphones out after reading the message that followed from James says “OMG. Just listen.” And after 30 seconds into watching the first video, I reached for the tissues besides my bed as I had started crying uncontrollably.” Caiti said.

And in 2019, the same video sent to Caiti was landed in the hands of the musical program director of Womad in Adelaide. She then booked the choir for the festival, and Caiti eventually flew from her hometown at Darwin to the Australia's south in order to meet the choir and choir director Camake Valaule in person.

After the joyful meet-up, it is Caiti's turn to pay visit to later that year with her partner James Mangohig, during their second week of the stay, they were invited to the Taiwu school near Pingtung where the choir director Camake is working as an award winning educator.

She premiered her latest single at the time “Gone” and sat in the rehearsal room of the school with some of the core members of the choir. "After listening to them rehearse, they invited me to sit with them and sing one of my favourite songs that I had become obsessed with “The waterfall song”." It took all of her professional control to keep a dry eye as I sunk into the middle of the voices that had come to feel like home according to Caiti.

After the magical music experience Caiti had in Pintung, soon after she returned to Darwin, she booked flights to return back to Taiwan the following month. This time, she spent 5 days in the village, each day she was rehearsing with a rotating cast from the choir from day to night.

The choir conductor and Caiti began to talk about one of her original songs called “Slow Down”, which became the highlight of her album "Under Our Galaxy". The song was a rolling hypnotic vocal onslaught of building harmonies. She instantly thought of the choir girls’ voices singing along. The song is minimal and has potentiality, which was perfect for the girls and Camake to compose their own parts in Paiwanese and build their harmonies.

Her original plan was to book her gigs in Taiwan and then spent another day with the choir on her third visit, but at the time February 2020, Covid-19 hit hard and forced the global music industry to take a reluctant break. As a result of travel restrictions, the choir and Caiti kept in touch online and the day came when Camake sent a video of the girls rehearsing.

"I was listening to what would become the Taiwu’s part to Slow Down. In February 2021, we organized a studio in Pingtung for the girls to record at whilst I was on holiday in Adelaide." Caiti recalled that she attended the entire recording session via instagram chat and FaceTime.

Slow Down is one of the example of how internet could connect musicians from different background together, and with restless effort from both end, we can now appreciate to the song "Slow Down" at below :