Taiwan’s Alternative Music Scene
We covered China’s underground music scene in a previous thread and with the new year approaching, I wanted to introduce some alternative artists from Taiwan. I’m sure everyone already knows the most popular Mando-pop stars, so here are a few that are a little less known. Most of these musicians either made their debuts or saw an upsurge in their popularity over the course of 2008. An article I read recently in the Taipei Times was the initial catalyst in my search for finding newer artists.
There’s a near-magical energy to 23-year-old Crowd Lu (盧廣仲), whose guitar-fueled, sunshine pop is winning the hearts of college kids in the Chinese-speaking world. His full-length debut, 100 Ways of Life (100種生活), sounds as inspired as his personal story: he was in a serious car accident, and while recovering in the hospital he resolved to learn to play guitar. The instrument turned out to be a good match for his agile and highly capable voice; his geek-chic charm and earnest songwriting glued the rest together. Lu’s tunes are about exams, making breakfast and toy robots, which haven’t sounded like so much fun in a long time.
88 Balaz (八十八顆芭樂籽) solid debut album, The 44 Stone Lions (肆十肆隻石獅子), is full of punk verve and rock ’n’ roll heat, but best of all captures the zany spirit of Taiwanese rock.
Panai’s (巴奈) A Piece of Blue (那片藍), a dreamy and sublime collection of acoustic songs spiced with jazz, Brazilian folk and reggae rhythms. This long-awaited second album — inspired by a group of artists in Taitung County’s (台東縣) Dulan Village (都蘭) — shows the 37-year-old singer-songwriter at her best. She naturally draws from her Amis and Puyuma roots, but doesn’t let traditional music dominate her original songs, mostly penned in Mandarin. The various island music grooves sprinkled throughout the album bring a lighter shade to Panai’s melancholy-tinged voice, which sounds both detached and intimate. The result is a beautiful balance: soulful, poetic reflection at a drifting, beachside pace.
On the other side of the taike (台客) spectrum is the venerable Wu Bai (伍佰), who has gone into outer space with his latest, Spacebomb (太空彈), a sci-fi concept album that stuffs light social satire into a rock party.
In light of this fall’s Wild Strawberry student protests, TC Yang’s (楊祖珺) retrospective album of folk and protest songs is timely. A Voice That Could Not Be Silenced: The TC Yang Collection 1977-2003 (關不住的歌聲—楊祖珺錄音選輯1977-2003) is a collection of the folk singer-turned-college professor’s recorded output, which includes her renowned version of Formosa (美麗島), a tune that rang throughout various protests by the Dangwai (outside the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party, KMT) movement of the late 1970s and 1980s.
A search on YouTube found this Atayal (泰雅) singer. I don’t know her name but I could feel the emotion in her unique vocal style. The Atayal are an aboriginal mountain people in Taiwan and this is sung in the old style.
Sodagreen’s third album, Incomparable Beauty (無與倫比的美麗), continues the band’s transition from indie to the pop mainstream without totally selling out its roots. Lead singer Wu Qing-feng’s (吳青峰) voice continues to define the band’s sound, but the album has tight arrangements and good lyrics as well. Sodagreen likes to show its sentimental side, yet never forgoes charm, and often flirts with cute, but is thoughtful enough to avoid insulting the listener’s intelligence.
Deserts Chang (張懸) is a Taiwanese singer-songwriter. Though no longer considered underground, she is considered to be one of the leading alternative musicians in the industry. The singer’s growing popularity in both Taiwan and mainland China also grew. At the 7th Chinese Music Media Awards in Hong Kong, Chang received the award for ”Best New Mandarin Artist”. Using a guitar as her primary instrument, Chang is known for her coffeehouse music.
RICEMAGNET was formed in 1999 in Canada and is presently based in Taipei and Hong Kong. Crossing continents, the band’s sound has been accordingly influenced by a range of alternative/indie/rock artists, with the resulting sound a blend of Red Hot Chili Peppers meets Wu Bai & China Blue. RICEMAGNET consists of Yi Ching Chung on guitar and lead vocals and David Ma on guitar, bass and vocals, both of whom have extensive performing experience.
Searching YouTube for Taiwan music, I found a song by 拼宵夜 that I thought you might enjoy. I’m assuming it’s some kind of folk song, though I’m not sure whether it’s traditional or something new.
In what looks like an Eslite bookstore in Taipei, I found this unplugged song titled “BackQuarter 十月病 – ( Unplugged 原版)”. Let us know if you recognize them and can give us more information.
With a harder edge, here’s Children Sucker 表兒 with their song 朋友啊!Take It Easy!
That’s what’s popular these days. Now let’s compare it to what used to be popular in Taiwan many years ago, although whenever I went to karaoke in Taiwan and China, all the 20 something girls still sing her songs. (This is just an excuse to let a few of our blog commenters remember their younger days.)
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