By Jocelle Koh & Matt Taylor
In an overwhelmingly positive and progressive move, Taiwan announced in February 2018 that it would be moving full speed towards a blanket ban on single-use plastic drinking straws, takeaway beverage cups, plastic bags and disposable utensils by 2030, one of the farthest reaching bans on plastic in the world. Originally promoted by the government since the early 1990s due to worries about diseases and cross-contamination, single use utensils and plastic bags soon became a huge problem, producing over 160,000 tonnes plastic waste annually. As a result, there have been consistent efforts by the government to become more environmentally conscious since 2000. Although this may seem an unwieldy task for residents outside Taiwan, locals have already had a culture of environmental friendliness going for years; something which has been reflected in their music scene in a big way.
And when we say ‘big’, we don’t mean a huge gaggle of artists releasing songs about loving the earth in one spurt because it was trendy before petering off to a dying trickle. We mean a consistent and encouraging history of artists within the Taiwanese independent and mainstream scenes who have expressed their concern at the state of the environment, and used their influence and visibility to keep the cause going. From Luo Ta-Yu in 1984 to Wang Leehom in 2007, and the aptly titled ‘Quit Plastic Poison’ by the Sheng Xiang band in 2016, here’s a crash course on how Taiwanese music’s authenticity and outspoken nature has lent itself perfectly to the island’s journey to greater environmental wellbeing.
Luo Ta-yu - Super Citizen 超級市民 (1984
It’s impossible to overstate how influential veteran singer Luo Ta-yu 羅大佑 has been on the development of popular Chinese language music. Since his initial contribution to the campus folk movement (校園民歌運動) of the 1970s, Luo has deservedly been credited with not only broadening the horizons of Chinese music sonically, but also setting a new model for lyricism in Mandarin.
By Jocelle Koh
“Can’t believe this is a white person singing”, was a friend’s response tinged with disbelief
and envy when I introduced him to the latest object of my fan-girling affections- a multitalented
singer-songwriter by the name of Christine Welch who has recently become the first Caucasian
solo artist to penetrate the Taiwanese music industry.
As politically incorrect as he sounded, I couldn’t have said it better myself. The blonde-haired
blue-eyed singer-songwriter entered the spotlight in 2010 when she covered Mandopop
superstar Wang Leehom’s “The things you don’t know 你不知道的事”, wowing audiences
with her flawless mandarin pronunciation and lilting voice.
Fast forward five years, and Christine is now relentlessly pursuing her numerous dreams in a
language that less than a decade ago was entirely foreign to her.
During our interview, it quickly became clear to me that fame and stardom was never the
intention of this New Mexico native, whose “lifelong passion” for the Chinese language and
music always came first and foremost.
“I think that what I want to do is break stereotypes here in Taiwan and in the US, I love making
music, but I'm not as passionate about becoming famous or marketing music.”