When Form Meets Function: Album Design in Taiwan (w. Hebe Tien, A-Mei, DJ Didilong, Easy Shen & Fleshjuicer)
Special Thanks to: Ministry of Culture, Taiwan
Album Descriptions: Matt Taylor
Foreword: Jocelle Koh
In our streaming-driven world, the value of physical albums often elude the best of us. Yet although the CD as a medium seems to somewhat have lost the functionality it used to champion, the Mandarin music scene has truly taken album design to the next level, embedding it deep in any hardcore fan’s music appreciation process.
The efficacy of printing in Taiwan combined with the free-flowing creativity on the scene has spawned new takes on album design that mash together concepts of progressive design and form promulgated by Western album art, whilst retaining the care and luxurious quality of these treasured pieces of merchandise as seen in Eastern music scenes.
Come with us as we delve into the stories behind the designs of some of contemporary Mandopop’s most well-loved and iconic albums; namely milestone works by Hebe Tien, A-Mei, DJ Didilong, Easy Shen and Fleshjuicer.
Hebe Tien 田馥甄 – Day by Day 日常 (2016)
Album Designer: Aaron Nieh 聶永真
Although being a singer is perceived to us as a life of glitz and glamour; to those who know better, sometimes they instead desire for one of pure simplicity. Hebe Tien (田馥甄) - one third of Taiwan’s most famous girl group S.H.E – understands this feeling more than most, and decided to explore this concept on her fourth solo studio album. To enjoy and savour the most trivial things in life is to understand that nothing is permanent, and even the small tasks and feelings should be treasured.
The packaging pays homage to the concept by taking care with even the smallest of details. A combination of bright and simple colours and minimalist design, the album brings together elements of engraving, hand-stitching and a variety of textures and symbols to create something extraordinary from the ordinary.
Interview with GorDoN國蛋 a.k.a Dr. Paper: From Taipei to NYC-Documenting His Cross-Cultural Experiences Through Rap
Compared with prolific Taiwanese rappers, GorDoN aka Dr. Paper’s laidback fare of hip hop music is often rather more suitable for bedtime tunes than the usual pumped up hip hop we’re used to. However, listen closely to his words and you will find his lyrics crammed with well-crafted anecdotes that often refer to his experiences living and breathing within a cross cultural context. Entering the scene in 2006 as part of the Bamboo Gang, he signed with KAO!INC. in 2007, establishing his career as a rapper and hip hop artist in Taiwan before moving to New York to pursue further study in 2013, before returning to Taiwan in 2015. This international move has since proved momentous towards GorDoN’s musical works, inspiring the release of three mixtapes in which he compares everything from daily life to the government’s policies in his various tracks. Interested to know more, we went deep in asking GorDoN about his motivations and goals in taking on such an angle within his music.
1. If you were to sum up your music for international audiences, how would you introduce yourself and your music?
I am GorDoN aka Dr. Paper, my music is mostly hip hop inspired by my life, as well as big and little things that happen in the place I live. I like using music to start conversations, to talk to myself, and to converse with other people's ideas.
2. For beginners, what do you think is the key to appreciation of good rap music?
I think being in the moment is the most important, no matter whether we're talking about the person making the music or listening, if you listened to rap or hip hop music but were unable to indulge in the moment, that takes away a very big part of the fun.
3. I heard that your latest mixtape ‘Dr. Paper Vol.3 Sunday Night Slow Jams’ was very much influenced by your time living in New York. Can you tell us a little about it?
Actually from Vol.2 -Blue Dream until GDNE, and now until Sunday Night Slow Jam, during this time I was living in New York, so a lot of these works were full of the colour of New York living. Sunday Night Slow Jam just so happened to begin production in the three months leading up to my decision to leave New York and return to Taiwan. Half of it was finished in New York and the other half in Taipei, during that time it just so happened to be a turning point in my life, and when I was producing this I did it with the motivation of creating a piece of work that commemorated the end of my time in New York.
Interview with DJ Didilong aka Yinghung李英宏: The Enigma Pioneering New-Gen Taiwanese Language Hip Hop
In recent years I've begun to realise that there is more to the Taiwanese music scene that just Mandarin Chinese music. A culturally diverse island, the native language of most of Taiwan's inhabitants is actually Hokkien or Minnanyu, otherwise known to most Taiwanese as taiyu(Taiwanese). However, much of the language was lost over generations of colonisation and martial law, which severely restricted the use of the Taiwanese dialect. Nowadays, use of the language is mostly lost on city slickers, with most artists performing exclusively in the dialect targeted at older generations. Despite this, mainstream artists have nevertheless continued to perform selected songs in these dialects, some to great popularity. From David Tao's remake of '望春風 Spring Wind' to A-mei Zhang's '夢中做憨人Sorrowful Regret', and even Lala Hsu (身騎白馬Riding On White Horse) & Crowd Lu (魚仔He-R), the popularity of these songs on the charts show that audiences are not opposed to the notion of incorporating these languages back into popular social conscience. Yet given the general lack of popularity of exclusively Taiwanese language music, younger generations of artists have long steered clear of putting all their eggs in one basket-except for one.
DJ Didilong aka Yinghung, a cult favourite of the Taiwanese hipster youths raps, sings and writes his music entirely in the Taiwanese dialect, putting out a fresh mix of Hip Hop, Rap, Funk, and Disco that is cutting edge and comparative to the standard of any Mandarin-speaking Hip Hop artist. A bit of an enigma, the suave artist won himself critical acclaim at this years' Golden Melody Awards with his debut album 'Taipei Didilong' as he was nominated for Best Taiwanese Album and Best Taiwanese Male Singer, using his mesmerising vocals and indomitable charisma to bring the Taiwanese dialect back into popular social conscience. We spoke briefly to him about his music as he and his record company KAO!INC. ready themselves to take on North America in their 'Coast To Coast' tour end November:
1. It is not often one finds a young hip hop artist who chooses to perform almost exclusively in the Taiwanese dialect. What was it that made you decide to write your songs for your debut album completely in Taiwanese?
Using ones’ own language to tell the stories of my home, that is what is most natural.
2. Your work has been inspirational for the youth in bringing awareness to the Taiwanese dialect. Do you intend to continue writing and performing your music solely in Taiwanese?
Of course I will, just like how in America, there are many different ethnicities, languages and cultures, I especially like to be part of a different mode of expression, that represents every ethnic group’s cultural background, way of life and inner thoughts.
3. If you were to pick one song from your discography that you would recommend to others when introducing your music, what would you choose and why?
‘Taipei Didilong’’s lyrics and musical recording all fully represent the place where I grew up.
4. Do you have any new works in the pipeline? Can you share with us a little about what’s up next for you?
I am currently working on musical arrangements for a movie, within it I also wrote some of the movie’s theme songs, they are quite different to my compositions in general, I am very excited to let everyone experience a different me.
To DJ Didilong, it seems that all these other considerations that other artists might account for when deciding what language to perform in are irrelevant. He does what comes most naturally; using his mother tongue and combining it with musical elements that he enjoys to create a unique style that is not easily replaceable. Making music from a place so pure and innovative, Didilong's sound leaves me optimistic for what future generations of Taiwanese young talent may come up with.
Hip Hop company KAO!INC. which consists of Soft Lipa, GorDoN, DJ Didilong, Deejay Gin and Leo Wang are touring LA and NYC, holding shows on the 19th (LA) at the Echoplex and on the 22nd (NYC) at the Highline Ballroom. See below for more information.
KAO!INC. World Tour - Los Angeles
Ticketing: https://goo.gl/WGHjgr (Priced at $30 advance, $35 on the day)
KAO!INC. World Tour - New York
Venue: Highline Ballroom
Ticketing: https://goo.gl/8UgqCH (Priced between 30-49.99)