Review: The Business of being a Community Musician

Now that I’ve been sold on the idea of ukestras and ukestration, I turn to the companion book by the same authors: “The Business of Being a Community  Musician.”

In this 58-page e-book, Mark Jackson and Jane Jelbart explain how to set up a business and more importantly, how to stay in business as a community musician. The latter is the reason for writing a business plan, to avoid burn out and financial distress.

Continue reading “Review: The Business of being a Community Musician”

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Review: The Ukestration Manual

subtitle: Orchestrating Music Making in Ukulele Groups

After playing in various ukulele groups and starting my own, I had a burning question. “What can we do differently to get more out of our ukulele jam sessions?”

The answer lies in “The Ukestration Manual: Creating Music Making Communities with the Ukulele and Ukestra Method” by Mark Jackson and Jane Jelbart. Continue reading “Review: The Ukestration Manual”

Review: Arpeggio Meditations for Ukulele

Daniel Ward’s 30-page “Arpeggio Meditations for Ukulele” for ukulele players reminds me of the Hanon exercises I played every day as a budding piano player. That’s how I built my technique, after playing the scales and arpeggios in the key I was assigned, I’d play one piece from Hanon for the entire week. This sort of repetitive finger exercise gets you into a trance. However, I daresay, Ward’s music is a lot more interesting and pleasing to the ear than Hanon’s.

Continue reading “Review: Arpeggio Meditations for Ukulele”

Review: the Real Taiwan and the Dutch

I had always believed that Taiwan was a hotbed of taste explosions, a dense concentration of cuisines from all provinces of China and the best in Asia. I knew the Dutch had some influence in Taiwan, mainly from the golden age of the 17th century when the VOC (Dutch East India Company) had explored the far reaches of Asia. Thus it was both a surprise and a treat to receive the new book “The Real Taiwan and the Dutch” by the former Netherlands Representative Menno Goedhart and American travel writer Cheryl Robbins.

When Dutch guitarist Robert Bekkers asked what there was to do in Taiwan, in anticipation of his first visit to the island earlier this Spring, I replied that we only had time to eat and see my relatives and friends. In truth, I had always believed that Taiwan was a hotbed of taste explosions, a dense concentration of cuisines from all provinces of China and the best in Asia.

This gastronomical paradise far exceeded any other attraction the island had to offer. [Likewise, my sister and brother would argue over how best to optimise every single meal we had during the two weeks of our family reunion in April 2010. There was simply too much good food to choose from. ] Upon our return to the Netherlands, I had trouble getting used to having to cook or look for the kind of good food that was available 24/7 in Taiwan.

The famous beef noodle soup, made by Anne's aunt in Miao Li Kung Kuan
The famous beef noodle soup, made by Anne’s aunt in Miao Li Kung Kuan

I knew the Dutch had some influence in Taiwan, mainly from the golden age of the 17th century when the VOC (Dutch East India Company) had explored the far reaches of Asia. I had met Taiwanese descendants with Dutch blood. They were considered exotic and attractive by Taiwanese standards. Yet, I knew nearly nothing of the legacy nor the various indigenous tribes on the island.

For me, Taiwan was a place caught between mainland China, where my father had “escaped” with his family during Chiang Kai Shek’s retreat from the communists, and the Hokkien people, who were the majority and who had moved to Taiwan many generations before my mother’s Hakka clan. Being born in a foreign country (Brunei), I “returned” to Taiwan with my parents at the age of 2. But that did not make me a native Taiwanese either, for my father still considered Taiwan a temporary place (to live) until he could return to Shanghai where he was born.

Qing Ming Jie festival in Miao Li Kung Kuan, April 2010
Qing Ming Jie festival in Miao Li Kung Kuan, April 2010

Thus it was both a surprise and a treat to receive the new book “The Real Taiwan and the Dutch” by the Netherlands Representative Menno Goedhart and American travel writer Cheryl Robbins. My friend Josine, a Dutch violinist and journalist based in Taipei, gave me the book in mid-July, and I could hardly put it down.

Published in April 2010 and available in both English and Chinese versions, the 271-page paperback book is packed with high resolution colour photographs of people, scenery, and food. The various cuisines are described with mouth watering finesse.

The Real Taiwan and the Dutch” is an eye-opener for me and, I’m sure, the many other overseas Chinese who still have relatives in Taiwan. After my sophomore year at university, I joined other college students on the annual Chien Tan overseas Chinese youth summer study tour in Taipei. After a few weeks of intensive Chinese language lessons, we toured the island visiting famous hot spots. I would recommend this book a must-read and include some of the places in the itinerary for these foreign-born Chinese and Taiwanese youths.

Chien Tan Overseas Chinese Study Tour in Taiwan
Chien Tan Overseas Chinese Study Tour in Taiwan

Since moving to the Netherlands in 2004, I have befriended many Chinese and Taiwanese wives of Dutch husbands in the Netherlands. They, too, find it fascinating that a Dutch man had explored the Taiwan few of us knew existed.

As the Dutch are famous for preserving their historic monuments, among other specialisations, I find the perspective of this book particularly interesting. Here was a Dutch man (Menno Goedhart) who recorded his notes and conversations with the natives, of legends passed down the generations, of the Dutch who had first come to the island. It’s a personal account of his travels in Taiwan while serving as Representative of the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office in Taipei. What resulted is a personal guide of the Taiwan he loves, so much that he and his wife are retiring in the southern city of Tainan in Taiwan.

The book has also inspired me to consider the possibility of writing a living history of the people and places where we give concerts. This will require a lot of time and stamina. In many ways, the Concertblog serves as a placeholder, an abbreviation for the content that will appear in the future. Photographs of people and places, for example, help us remember and trigger memories of encounters that influenced or changed our paths.

Shanghainese steamed dumplings with famous Taiwanese composer in Taipei
Shanghainese steamed dumplings with famous Taiwanese composer in Taipei

What else do I need to realise our piano guitar duo‘s dream of giving concerts everywhere we go (and traveling the world with our music)? Meet Menno Goedhart, Taiwan tourism ambassador.