By Jocelle Koh
Design by Allison Sun
Forming in 2014, Elephant Gym is one of Taiwan’s only Math-Rock bands. Yet from this place of isolation the trio has grown like a rose amongst the thorns; adapting with grace and fluidity to become one of Taiwan’s most successful musical exports. The band’s musical offerings have been highly acclaimed since the very beginning; from scoring opportunities to work with Yoga Lin to now embarking on an ambitious worldwide tour with their second full album ‘Underwater’, but in fact very little of their trajectory was left to chance.
Instead, the trio seem to have forged a rare balance between logic and creativity, an element which has eluded the best of us. Despite the absolute freeing feeling of whimsy and abandon one receives from their math/post-rock tunes, I found out over afternoon tea that the band is surprisingly grounded. A completely independent team, Tell, KT and Tu are not just the musicians and performers behind Elephant Gym; they are everything from the admins who reply on social media to the accountants who crunch the numbers.
“KT: Our team is just the three of us. We all have two roles, taking on identities as both the admin and the band. Oh and we deal with promotion, and… everything else (laughs). We don’t have an assistant or a management company in Taiwan. So we are always having meetings and have clear roles for each of us. To me I think Tell will put together the big idea, and then Chiachin will execute and contact the relevant parties... So once everyone has secured the deal, then I will start to tell everyone that this thing is happening.”
By Matt Taylor
When it comes to defining who is the Queen of Mandopop or Queen of Cantopop, debates can be heated as fans fight for their favourite to wear the prestigious crown. There are very few who have credible claim to these revered titles, and one of that small handful is Sandy Lam林憶蓮. Since her debut Cantonese album in 1985, Sandy has gone on to be a defining figure in Chinese-language music. What has always set her apart from her peers is not just her incredible commercial success; but her ability to transform, and willingness to step outside of the frameworks of the genre and industries in which she operates.
With the news that Sandy plans to bow out of the music world, now seems the appropriate time for us to take a look back at her astonishing career, and at how she’s shaped and influenced the worlds of Cantonese & Mandarin music. How did a teenage part-time DJ become one of the most prolific Chinese-language artists of the 20th and 21st centuries?
By Jocelle Koh
Design by Allison Sun
Upon interviewing her, we found that Yoyo Sham’s personality is just like her music; mellow, comfortable, and always thoughtful. Although the end of 2018 saw her just releasing her second album, the Jazz/Folk/Pop artist has already made her mark on the Mandarin music industry in more ways than one; boasting a lengthy track record as a professional backing vocalist for the likes of Khalil Fong and Eason Chan, and showing her apparent flair for blending genres and languages into her easy songwriting style.
“I tend to look for comfort in music. I also look for stimulation and inspiration, of course... But I seldom use music to…I wanted to say I seldom use music to express anger or frustration, but I’m learning to as well… I think I tend to like music that makes me comfortable … it’s just natural for me, it’s not something I try very hard to achieve, it’s just how I am.”
Yet her latest album ‘Nothing is Under Control’ sees an evolution of Sham’s uniquely chilled sound; sometimes into more lively, cheeky, territory; whilst reprising and improving on her relaxing jazz/folk offerings. Riding the highs and lows of life, Sham takes us on a journey of the unexpected-no matter how we perceive the latter.
“Nothing is under control is something I find true in many, many circumstances (laughs) ... And I actually took this out of one of the lyrics in the song ‘Ride’. So the whole line was ‘freedom is simply seeing, nothing is under control, gotta learn to let go’… it’s like … something for everyone to reflect on. So when you see the title ’Nothing is under control’ , how do you react? I wanna throw that out there for people to react and reflect on themselves…it’s a neutral concept for me…I like throwing out things to provoke reflections (laughs).”
‘Ride’; as one of the core songs on Yoyo’s album has a bohemian feel à la Corinne Bailey Rae, and skilfully penned lyrics that delicately capture the vivid beauty of letting the chips fall where they may.
“I’m really happy to have a song like that, I’ve always wanted to have a song like ride that kind of…is kind of comforting, and it’s like a reminder for me, the things that’s said and its positive, I like the vibe of the song, its earthy, keeps going.”
By Jocelle Koh
Thumbnail Design by Allison Sun
Photos Courtesy of Esplanade - Theatres By The Bay
When asked what it is that inspires him to create; Mandopop dark horse Khalil Fong’s answer was succinct, but universally meaningful.
“There are various reasons but I guess primarily a sense of responsibility to the art itself.”
Khalil's position in the Mandarin music industry has always been unique. Whilst the likes of Jay Chou and Wang Leehom are crowned Mandarin pop royalty, the title sounds a little off when applied to Fong, who just seems to be legendary in his own way. In fact, his thoughts on responsibility seem to echo in the path of a certain arachnid superhero.
Indeed, the 35 year-old musical mastermind has fought an uphill battle ever since his debut almost a decade and a half ago; first pioneering the incorporation of R&B, Soul, Funk and Blues into Mandarin pop music. But even now, Fong continues to incorporate an attitude of diligence and social responsibility into his ever-growing body of work.
“I’ve always considered myself a world citizen and my musical tastes are quite eclectic. I think I’m always working my way towards the blending of ideas and cultures whether consciously or subconsciously.”