Drumming to the sound of a different beat
While shooting this feature on prisoners trying to reform themselves through the art of traditional drumming, I was reminded of a question once posed to me by a lecturer when I was 18. Are all men inherently evil or is it society that makes them so?
When I first met the inmates at the Changhua Prison to work on this feature, I was surprised to find the drum trainees, whose ages ranged from 18-25, well-mannered and soft spoken. Far from the dangerous criminals that I had etched in my mind. Rather, they were just men who were no different than I was. I felt guilty for having such exaggerated thoughts in the first place.
Hearing their stories during the interviews made me realize that they were basically boys whose lives took a turn in the wrong direction because of a lack of good guidance and peers. I count myself fortunate to have been able to grow up with a decent education and support from my friends and family.
So, I commend the arts group for creating such a program that provides the inmates with a goal to work towards. Aside from the drum training, the participants are also trained spiritually by practicing meditation and martial arts to help build up the prisoners’ confidence for life outside the prison walls. I immediately noticed the glimmer in their eyes as they performed during a practice rehearsal for Reuters coverage of the event. There is optimism in this group of young men and you can feel it in their energy and music.
There is no guarantee where their lives will head after they serve their sentences, but when they make the next choices, I sincerely hope the achievements they have gained from this program will be able to make them believe that they deserve a second chance in society.