The Funeral Orchestra

Gold Prize of the 5th Cyber-Island Photography Contest
Photographer: Jun-Wei Hou
Date and place photos were taken: 2007; Yunlin and Chiayi County area

The funeral orchestra usually marched out before the morning broke.

Members of Ya-Yin Ladies Orchestra performed in a hot summer day.

A curtain divided the sight into two different worlds. One is that of intense musical performance; another, the sorrowful and tired faces of the bereaved.

The face of a musician was pumped like a big ball.

The funeral orchestra played the last song for the deceased on his/her land.

Everyone was exhausted on the return trip after a full day’s heavy work.

This is an uncanny experience of travel and photography. For most of us, this is an experience which we are all familiar with but unwilling to witness. It could happen before the sun rises or in the afternoon. The destination may be located in the deep of a mountain higher than 1000 meters, or, in an isolated small town in the countryside. The crying of the hired “professional daughter” of the dead and the melody of elegy together froze the air into a weighty and weird atmosphere which occasionally depressed me from even lifting up the camera. This is the sight of a funeral in the countryside of Taiwan.

In 2007, I followed Chiayi County’s “Ya-Yin Ladies Orchestra,” so called “Si-So-Mi,” around in the Chiayi and Yunlin County area when I had free time. The number of members in Ya-Yin varied from 5 to a hundred depending on the need of the bereaved. In Ya-Yin, only a few members were official musicians; most were part-time players who took this job at their spare time. These ladies aged from 16 to 60 years old.

They played a lot of old 1960s Taiwanese songs. Due to a lack of training and coordination, their music was oftentimes awkward, seemingly rough and absurd. However, their poor performance, under the circumstances, reflected a kind of true nature as if it was caused by the unbearable sorrow.

Using the camera, I tried to catch the relationship between the funeral orchestra and my emotion toward my hometown. I was recording some real life in the countryside. It is true that I was using the funeral orchestra as the theme of my photography; but rather, I was using the process to search for my self-identity and purpose. Constantly observing and taking pictures, searching for the true meaning under the surface, these are my journeys to be continued.


To view Silver Prize of the 5th Cyber-Island Photography Contest, please go to The Monk.
To view Bronze Prize of the 5th Cyber-Island Photography Contest, please go to An Industry in the Sense of Art: the Movable-type Printing.

Text and images are provided by Exhibition of Cyber Island, Taiwan