By Jocelle Koh
Welcome back to part 2 of our music blog series about Chinese music! In the first part, I share with you guys why it has become such an important part of my life and why I love it so. Now, I'm going to share with you why YOU should love Chinese music.
Even as of late, the Chinese music industry (especially the Taiwanese industry) has been in a bit of a downturn for me. Its' become harder to find great music, and I'm starting to see a lot more blurred lines, with songs in between good and bad-perhaps having some interesting ideas but not being able to follow through and really expand on the work in such a way where it becomes a beautiful piece of artwork. So definitely there are many things the industry could work on, especially in terms of organisation and quality control-from what I hear it can be quite a messy industry, with people using their hearts over their heads to make important decisions.
But then that started me wondering why I love Chinese music so much, which spurred me to write part 1 of this series. And an afterthought to that was: Sentimentality and personal roots aside, why do I constantly strive to promote Chinese music to the world? Why should YOU, as listeners love Chinese music? So that, my friends was how this two-part series came together. After thinking about this question for the LONGEST time, I think I've finally came up with an answer.
1. It has no-holds-barred freedom in speech
Although this advantage is a double-edged sword which could attribute for quality control problems this industry (and actually the entire of Taiwan) has been having, if its used in the right way, it could potentially be a very powerful mechanism for creating a sound that is unique only to Taiwan.
Taiwan actually has the freest media industry in the entirety of Asia. In other words, it has the most means afforded to them to express a sound that is most representative of their identity. While places like Singapore and China repress their citizen's means of creative expression, Taiwanese music is able to breathe life into every aspect of Taiwanese identity by providing outlooks not only on daily situations such as love and daily life, but also criticising certain points of Taiwan identity. A great example of this is Jolin Tsai's recent single <呸Play> which was a criticism of one aspect of the Taiwanese identity; in that they confine themselves to categories with a noncritical sense of direction.
Another example of this is Chris Liao's entire latest album which explores the psyche of young Taiwanese teenagers in a way that shines a light on the neglect the Taiwanese government has shown towards mental disorders.
2. It takes indie music to a whole new level
Kind of following on from the previous point, because they have pretty much no restrictions on anything they say or write, Taiwan's indie music scene especially is chock-full of new ideas and sounds. And because of this, Taiwanese audiences are thus also more receptive to new sounds, be they indie or mainstream. In the past we've seen indie acts like Sodagreen and Cheer Chen make it to international pop star status, despite their persistence in a more alternative, independent sound.
In this case I believe blurred lines between genres are an advantage in the taiwanese music scene (however it is present in many other music scenes too). As long as you're putting good music out, people will continue to support it and make it an even bigger movement.
3. They've got heart
Host/actress Janet Hsieh once said Taiwan is not special because of its mountains, its rivers or its scenery. Although it may be beautiful, there are most certainly bigger mountains, longer rivers and more beautiful scenery to be found elsewhere. But what continues to draw visitors back to Taiwan again and again, is the people that you will meet here. And I believe that this extends to the nature of its music industry too.
Although the music here may not be the best in the world, you can't fault the heart and the effort that has been put into it. Most people make their music with the best intention, no matter whether they are right in doing so or not. It's hard to exactly pinpoint what it is, but whenever I listen to Taiwanese music, it makes me feel truly at home, and at ease. Because the people who are making it, like most Taiwanese are amiable, relatable and always always try their best.
And if that's not something to appreciate about Taiwanese music, I don't know what is.
It's been my dream since I started getting to know more about Chinese music to be able to live in Taipei, and now I'm finally going to be able to! Starting from the 11th of February, I will be staying in Taipei for 139 days and hope to share parts of my experiences that may be helpful with readers everywhere! (Feb 2014)