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.
Interview with Yen-J 嚴爵 - Thanks for your greatness (Pt. 1): Looking back on a Decade of innovative Work in Mandopop
As a longtime Mandopop enthusiast, it’s not always easy keeping track of everything that’s happening on the scene. Yet creative wunderkind Yen-j has always been a constant on my playlists, ever since his debut as a fresh-faced 22 year-old in 2010.
Upon learning of this new artist whom I shared a birthday with, I instinctively dove headfirst into his first album ‘Thanks for your Greatness謝謝你的美好’, and emerged with an entirely new worldview on the possibilities that existed for the Mandarin pop scene. Debuting with a fresh new sound that focused on unearthing a different side to mainstream Jazz and mixing it with elements of pop, Yen-J certainly made a splash with his first album, rendering it an instant classic. (I even have a theory that the success of his release inspired the resurgence of Jazz-inspired pop music within Taiwan in the few years that followed, but that’s for another article.)
Despite getting his start as a Jazz-pop artist, the affable singer-songwriter was determined not to allow himself to be defined by any one genre; instead relentlessly pursuing a plethora of different sounds throughout his seven-album discography. Be it Jazz, Pop, Hip Hop, Folk, Rock, R&B, EDM, or Gospel, Yen-J has expressed his voracious appetite for creating music through his willingness to experiment.