Date: Thu, 14 May 98 16:40:21 CDT
From: (S.I.S.I.S.)
Subject: Taiwan: Stop Ami Cultural Genocide: Boycott ‘Enigma’
Article: 34895
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <>

Date: Sun, 10 May 1998 14:51:04 +0800
From: Mark Munsterhjelm <>
Subject: Enigma's theft of the Ami People's Cultural Heritage

Enigma's theft of the Ami People's Cultural Heritage

From Mark Munsterhjelm, Shihlin, 10 May 1998


The issue of Taiwanese aboriginal people's intellectual property is a serious one in Taiwan. Everyday on TV in Taiwan aboriginal symbols and music are used to sell this or that product. It is cool now to do the aboriginal thing and exploit the heritage of the Taiwanese aboriginal population. Politicians dress up in aboriginal costumes and do a few steps of a dance for a media photo opportunity. Variety shows have the occasional aboriginal dance troupe. The stereotype of the happy natives dancing and singing in the mountains ignores the Taiwanese Aboriginal's difficult reality. Taiwan's First Nations comprise about 2% or 340,000 of Taiwan's 21 million population. The 9 remaining legally recognized tribes are the: Ami, Atayal, Bunun, Rukai, Saisiat, Tsou, Yami,Puyuma, and Paiwan. Their situation is similar to indigenous peoples around the world: they are the society's poorest group, suffer from discrimination and inequality, and are culturally under attack.

Recent insults include the use of Yami tribesmen in a Kirin Beer TV commercial and Taiwanese aboriginal dancing in a Mitsubishi car commercial. Kirin Beer is owned by Mitsubishi. Mitsubishi is one the most destructive multinational corporations in the world. It is responsible for helping destroy the homelands of many aboriginal peoples including for example the Penan in Malaysia' Sabah and Sarawak provinces.

The most famous and blatant example however is the illegal use of Ami people's intellectual property by the pop group Enigma in the song Return to Innocence from the CD Cross of Changes. This song was the theme song of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. The main chorus of it was sung by Difag (Chinese name Kuo Ying-nan) and his wife, Igay (Chinese name Kuo Hsiu-chu) of the Ami people of eastern Taiwan. They were part of a Taiwanese aboriginal cultural performance group that toured Europe in 1988. During a performance in France, an unauthorized recording was made by the Maison des Cultures du Monde. This recording was made into a CD and released commercially. Enigma then used samples from this CD to make the chorus on Return to Innocence.

Responding to a letter about this violation the Maison des Cultures du Monde eventually agreed to pay FF15,000 (less than US$3000) as a symbolic fee to the Chinese Folk Arts Foundation. Enigma, whose CD Cross of Changes sold millions of copies worldwide, to date has refused any compensation saying that it had legal permission from Maison des Cultures du Monde to use the samples in question. Lawyers on behalf Difag and Igay are currently pursuing legal action to obtain compensation.

The Taiwanese aboriginal peoples have had nearly everything taken from them. Since the Dutch first occupied Western Taiwan in the early 1600 and the subsequent conquest and colonization by the Chinese, the indigenous peoples have suffered hardship and suffering at the hands of outsiders. First their lands were taken, then for the western Aboriginal peoples their cultural identity as they assimilated into Chinese society.

The Aboriginal tribes of eastern mountainous areas were independent until the brutal conquest and subjugation by the Japanese beginning in 1895. This followed Beijing giving Taiwan to Japan as part of treaty ending the Sino-Japanese War even though Beijing only had control of the east of the island. For thirty-five years the aboriginal peoples periodically rebelled against the repression of the Japanese. The final rebellion in 1931 at Wushe by the Atayal people was finally put-down after extensive massacres of thousands and bombing by the Imperial Japanese Army.

The transfer of control from Japan to the Republic of China after World War II was also a disaster for the Aboriginal peoples. Taiwan was given as a gift by the Allies to the bloody tyrant Chiang Kai Shek as war booty after the Japanese defeat. From 1946 to 1949, 1 to 2 million Mainland Chinese flooded into Taiwan as Chiang Kai Shek's Nationalist (KMT) armies retreated following their defeat by Mao Tse Dong' Communists. There were many tens of thousands of Taiwanese and Aboriginal peoples killed during the reign of terror that followed the KMT's occupation. The most terrible was the February 28, 1947 rebellion by Taiwanese against the new occupiers. 10,000 to 30,000 were killed in the reign of terror that followed February 28, 1947 uprising.

Forced assimilation policies by the KMT have devastated the Taiwanese Aboriginal peoples' societies. All Taiwanese people were forced to speak Mandarin Chinese. Traditional cultural practices were repressed and Christian missionaries were let loose to convert aboriginals. So successful were the missionaries that 75 to 80% of Taiwan's aboriginals are now Christian.

Under the weight of these sustained attacks the Taiwanese Aboriginal cultures are crumbling. Fewer and fewer children can speak their cultures' language. The cultural homogenizing force of TV and commercial films are further damaging remaining 9 tribes' traditions.

The Aboriginal peoples of Taiwan are trying to save their culture but it is a difficult struggle in the face of the global corporate cultural juggernaut. Enigma is part of this globalization onslaught. Enigma uses a phony contrived pseudo-mystical cloak to hide it's true identity. This exploiter uses traditional culture to sell all sorts of Enigma merchandise including Enigma wristwatches, leather jackets, T-shirts, sweatshirts etc.

Enigma is part of the sampling assault on tribal cultures. By using samples of indigenous music these corporate music monsters trivialize the sacredness of their victims' cultures. Music in it's truest manifestation is an expression of our souls. Enigma takes these sacred traditions and sells these to be used in car commercials for example.

I refuse to buy anymore Enigma CDs and I hope you will join me in a boycott of this group and Virgin Records until proper compensation is given. Enigma is no mystery it is just another bunch of thieves. Maybe you can sent a complaint letter to: asking for compensation and an apology.

Sincerely yours,
Mark Munsterhjelm
Shihlin, Taipei, Taiwan