Drumming meditation in Taiwan prisons gives young inmates a future

By Ho Yi for the Taipei Times, July 18, 2012

ART THERAPY:Young inmates who have been studying drumming and meditation with U-Theatre instructors say they now have self-confidence and believe in themselves

With the help of Zen drumming troupe U-Theatre (優人神鼓), a group of male inmates at Changhua Prison has benefited so much from drumming and meditation that the troupe’s founder and artistic director Liu Ruo-yu (劉若瑀) said she hopes a mechanism can be established to facilitate private sponsorship for a permanent institute where the inmates can continue training after they have served their prison sentences.

“These kids have explosive energy inside them. If you give them a framework, a structure, they will channel it into creative outlets. But you will lose them if you let them go back to their old environments after prison,” Liu said yesterday at a press event promoting a free performance by the inmate drumming group, the Guwu Percussion Troupe (鼓舞打擊樂團).

For the past three years, more than 40 young men, chosen through auditions, have been studying the art of drumming and Zen meditation with U-Theatre instructors, who visit the prison twice a week.

The drumming lessons are part of a program initiated by the Chang-hua Prison, a correctional facility for mostly young offenders aged between 18 and 25, to encourage prisoners to study traditional art forms, including Taiwanese glove puppetry and suona (嗩吶), as well as nanguan (南管) and beiguan (北管) music.

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