Gung Haggis: A Fusion of Traditions? A Question is Answered.

Hi Todd

I'm curious and have to ask, how traditional is a fusion between a Chinese and Scottish celebration? As someone looking in from the outside, I see it as the result of us taking on a new identity in contemporary North America, the “melting pot” if you will.

peace brother

Hi Ashley,

It is all in the interpretation isn't it. This is the truth about communication. It isn't WHAT you say, it is HOW you say it, and more importantly, does the person UNDERSTAND what you originally MEANT.

Communication and interpretation are all constructs – both culturally and personally. When things are taken outside of their context they are more easily misunderstood.

The only traditions are the traditions we create ourselves – another social construct. I describe Gung Haggis Fat Choy as “something old, something new, something borrowed and something brewed.” Part of the tradition has now become to constantly surprise the audience. They have come to expect the unexpected. It may be ridiculous, it may be artistic, it may be sublime. It can be all these diverse elements rolled into one. The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

The musical constant is the familiar: people expect to hear and sing “Scotland the Brave”, “Old Lang Syne” – They don't expect to hear “When Asian Eyes Are Smiling.” They expect to hear bagpipes, they don't expect to hear bagpipes accompanied by tabla drums. If they came last year, they saw 12 year old violinist Alex Sachs perform as a 13 year old – what they didn't expect was to also see Vancouver Opera concertmaster Mark Ferris also perform on violin (each chose Scottish and Chinese themed pieces).

People expect to hear the poetry of Robbie Burns, what they don't expect is to hear contemporary Chinese Canadian poety – supplied in the past by Sean Gunn, Jim Wong-Chu, Fiona Lam and last year by myself. People expect to see kilts and cheong sams, but not kilted Asians nor cheong sam-ed blonde soprano opera singers.

People expect a Chinese banquet and haggis – but rarely together, and certainly not served with deep fried haggis wun-tuns.

Is this fusion, or juxtaposition, that allows us to see the normally  familiar through fresh eyes. What is it like to see a Chinese New Year dinner through Scottish Eyes? What is it like to see a Robbie Burns Dinner through Chinese Eyes? People attend the dinner because they are curious, because they have a sense of adventure and fun, because they have heard good word of mouth that says, “You have to come – you will have too much fun” or “This is so crazy you will love it!”

Is it melting pot? I don't think so. Melting pot is when people take on the regional cultures and traditions.

Melting pot is Ukranians from Winnipeg, Russians from Moscow, French Canadians from Chicotoumi, Chinese from Hong Kong, all go down to GM Place and wear Vancouver Canuck Jerseys, and chant the same language “Sha Na Na Na…”

Is it cultural appropriation? I don't think so.  Cultural appropriation is when one takes over another culture and claims it as one's own for one's own purposes.

Is it a new identity? This I believe. Gung Haggis Fat Choy is the creation of a new North American Tribe.

A tribe that is not so much fusion – but intercultural learning. We beg, borrow and “steal” traditions and apply them out of context. And along the way, we learn about the meanings behind the traditions. Yes, we make mistakes along the way, such as wearing a tartan sash over the wrong shoulder -but we are given gentle and gracious corrections, as people love what we are doing. We have people in our tribe that may have Scots or Chinese bloodlines or not.  What we all have is a healthy appreciation and respect for each other's philosophies, opinions and culture.

Peace & Blessings, Todd


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