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.”
Article by Matt Taylor
Cover Art by Allison Sun
Music, politics and protest in Taiwan are intrinsically linked. From the rumblings of Taiwanese identity in the campus folk music of the 1960s to the emotionally charged Island Sunrise 島嶼天光 written for the 2014 Sunflower Movement and even the long-running environmental conservation efforts instigated on the island, a rich and diverse musical history has always provided support; spreading the story of the underprivileged, and documenting their hopes and struggles.
Similarly, there is a wealth of music that has been produced to support LGBT people that for many years has bolstered the island's image as one that is progressive and supportive of same-sex love. The canon of music representing the Taiwanese LGBT movement is as diverse as those who create it; spanning genre, gender and sexual orientation.
On 24 November 2018 however, Taiwan citizens rallied together to support several referendums spearheaded by conservative Christian groups. Up to 75% of Taiwanese voters not only voted to maintain the traditional definition of marriage, but also expressed desire to roll-back LGBT education in schools.
The LGBT community has been reeling from the realisation that Taiwan is not the beacon of progressiveness that they thought it was. In light of this, how can we now view the previously mentioned musical canon which has bolstered this image both at home and abroad?
This article is not a commentary on the referendum results. Instead, we aim to take a look at the diverse collection of Taiwanese music which was created to support the LGBT movement and take a look at how these songs' meanings are re-framed or deepened in a changing social and political climate.