By Jocelle Koh
Graphic Design by Allison Sun
Mulling over things after concluding my phone interview with singer-songwriter Diana Wang, I realised that the alternative R&B darling is (to the best of my recollection) the only artist whom I’ve interviewed three times*. Multiple interviews are a rare occurrence for various reasons, but the most pertinent one being that we only write features when we feel there’s a story there that needs to be told.
Wang is like a cat with nine lives; constantly reinventing, constantly reimagining and constructing new possibilities for herself as an artist. As a result, with each new body of work it seems there are always new stories to be told and new perspectives to be unearthed. So I was particularly looking forward to chatting with the Netherlands-born artist and diving deep into the experiences that lay behind her latest mini album ‘Moon’.
If her last album ‘Poem’ with FU MUSIC was a curated reintroduction to Diana Wang, Wang’s latest body of work ‘Moon’ reveals a deeper, more introverted side to the demure diasporic artist.
As the inaugural Taiwanese Waves showcase at New York City’s Summerstage draws close for the fourth year, this year’s line-up is spectacularly and regally feminine in nature. Nicknamed ‘Taiwanese Baes’, the event has chosen to feature some of the most unique and empowering female artists the scene has to offer, including unique up-and-comer 9m88 and Aboriginal powerhouse Abao, as well as pioneers in the indie rock and pop scenes respectively; Tizzy Bac and OneFang (Wanfang).
All with their own stories to tell, the four acts come together in the city that never sleeps to bring a diverse audience a new sense of what it means to be a female artist who is part of the Taiwanese music scene in this day and age. Read on to hear more about their thoughts on New York City, and what to expect from this years’ festivities.
1: Impressions of New York
Hui-Ting (Tizzy Bac): City of the world (laugh)
9m88: A really big, smelly, and culture dimensional city that a lot of fun things happen.
Wan-Fang: My impression of New York is that many people go to New York to find his or her true-self, searching for dreams and search for who they really are. When we throw ourselves in New York, it’s like we are nothing so that we can feel the true-self and the most original stage of ourselves. By seeing people from around the world, I think it’s a process that you can understand some things.
ABAO: It’s a fashion city.
2: How many times have you been to New York? What are you looking forward to do in New York?
Hui-Ting (Tizzy Bac): This is my first time going to New York. I will go to MOMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art first, and then the next thing is to go to "Sleep No More".
9m88: I've been to New York a lot. It's a bit nervous for me to come back to New York because it's my first time coming back ever since I left at the end of last year. I feel a bit of resistant. Don't know how my feelings will be, but I have a lot of good friends that I miss in New York, really looking forward to seeing them.
Wan-Fang: I haven't counted how many times. I will stay a few days longer, but I'm not sure what I will do, I want to see what is happening in this city. I want to see what would happen if I just throw myself in New York. No special plans to do anything.
ABAO: This is my first time going to New York. I want to go find some elements that is related to Soul music, go see some performance and street dancing parties.
By Jocelle Koh
Malaysian singer-songwriter Evangeline Wong has always been full of surprises. After the critically-acclaimed release of her debut album 'Wilder 框不住的艷薇', the limitless vocalist and songwriter seems to be continuing on her path of self-discovery as reflected in her latest single 'Already Forgotten 其實我們都忘了’. We had a hard-and-fast Q&A session with the budding artist , going deep on the theme of 'remembering' which she touches on in this experimental and hard-hitting new single.
1. Your new song “Already Forgotten” is really different from your past works. Can you share the inspiration behind your lyrics?
Empathy is something that my mother has taught me since I was young. This empathy and responsibility to speak out for others is something I wanted to put in this song. Putting my life, from owning nothing to something and my feelings about others into this song.
2. This song is about forgetting to treasure every moment. Can you share with us three things you think people shouldn’t forget?
One-Don’t forget about yourself
Two-Don’t forget the good in others
Three-Don’t forget to be grateful for everything you have
Article by Matt Taylor
Graphics by Allison Sun
Editor's Note: Following on from our 'Songs of Defiance' piece on LGBTIQ Mandopop, the recent Hong Kong protests caught our attention and made us think about the Cantopop canon in a new light. If 'Songs of Defiance' define the spirit of musical and societal interactions in Taiwan, 'Songs of Survival' truly represent Hong Kong's brand of fighting spirit.
The word ‘Cantopop’ is one that immediately brings to mind legends such as Sam Hui 許冠傑, Anita Mui 梅艳芳, and Jacky Cheung張學友. A symbol of Hong Kong’s reputation as the cultural powerhouse of the Chinese-speaking world in the 1980s; these artists and many more were the embodiment of a cultural and economic golden age with their soaring ballads, irresistible dance numbers, and elaborate over-the-top performances. By the 1990s however, the rise of China as a potential market and the impending handover of Hong Kong to the Beijing government seemed to have set the industry on a seemingly irreversible decline.
As such, it makes sense that contemporary iterations of Cantopop are also inherently political - an intrinsic barrier to the Mainland’s Mandarin-language culture homogenization efforts. In a fight to keep alive Hong Kong’s uniqueness and autonomy as a nation; people are clinging to Cantopop in a last-ditch survival effort to express their identity and be heard.
Especially given the recent protests surrounding a controversial extradition bill, Cantopop is emerging more and more as a critical mouthpiece for the people of Hong Kong. Here we look at the ways Hong Kongers are using the Cantopop canon to make their voices heard.
Author: Jocelle Koh
Graphic Design: Allison Sun
With an unmistakable perm and effortlessly jazzy vocals, 9m88 has been both a breath of fresh air and a dark horse on the Mandarin music scene ever since her ever-growing presence and laidback sound was featured on rapper Leo Wang’s song ‘Weekends With You’ in 2016. Note the use of the word ‘feature’ rather than ‘debut’ – for all the success that the fashion and musically-forward artist has garnered over the years (performing at Clockenflap; collaborating with contemporary greats such as Sodagreen’s Wu Qing Feng, OZI, Ma Nien-Hsien; appearing on Marie Claire, Vogue, the list goes on…) the singer-songwriter has yet to debut with a full body of work.
Seeing all the hints being dropped on her social medias though, we feel that a great deal of long-awaited original work might be coming our way very soon! Yet before it does, we wanted to unpack the phenomenon of 9m88 and her ascent to visibility through the tactic of collaboration.
Given the increasing saturation of the market and therefore need to stand out, defining success in a pop musical collaboration setting has also become even more stringent and multifaceted. Does the song capture a good mix of the artists’ respective sounds? Does it have potential to create visibility that will translate to new engaged audiences? Does the positioning of the artists fit together? Was the cost required to collaborate worth the visibility? How does one define their expectations for ‘visibility’? And so the list goes on and on and on… In short, executing collaborations is easy enough, but creating a successful and effective collaboration is no walk in the park
9m88: The Perfect Collaboration Partner
And yet, 9m88 seems to be the queen of this delicate balancing act of collaboration. In a chicken-and-egg cycle, her high-quality brand attracts the right kinds of partners, and through intimate collaboration she skilfully and painstakingly renegotiates the final product (music and visuals) to work very much in her favour. For stakeholders, her presence on a project is both lucrative and quality-approved; and on the creative side of things her indomitable uniqueness AND musical versatility make her the perfect collaboration partner.
So how exactly did 9m88 leverage the art of artist collaboration to navigate her way upstream in such a competitive and saturated industry? We break down several of her notable collaboration projects to date in an effort to crack the code.
Interview with The ‘Pineapple 菠蘿’ Team: Not Your Average Teen Web-Series (Ft. Jane Chow, Peter Rafe, Tav Bartlett)
On a sticky, humid morning in sunny Singapore, I sat down to a skype call with the big thinkers behind the East-meet-West webseries ‘Pineapple’, Peter Rafe and Jane Chow as well as their composer Tav Bartlett. A comedy webseries set in Hong Kong; the themes within the series skilfully and uniquely expand past the jurisdictions of the little island within the compounds of a local international school.
Recently screened at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, the brainchild of co-creators Peter and Jane was borne from a lifetime of experiences as part of the Asian diasporic community, something which I myself am more than familiar with. Between the four of us at the skype interview, myself, Peter, Jane and Tav shared experiences and heritages that spanned the world over. Singapore, Hong Kong, Vietnam, America, Botswana, Britain, Thailand, Australia…the list goes on.
Just from the sharing of each of our backgrounds, it became clear that for many members of the Asian diasporic population, our identities are not defined solely by the places in which we were born or raised. It is defined by an almost immiscible mishmash of our experiences, the cultural practices of our parents or surrounding communities, and everything else in between.
By Jocelle Koh
Young, vivacious and ready to take on the world, 18 year-old Jannine Weigel’s already-long list of accomplishments makes us feel old just by listing them. Not only does the Thai-German artist sing, dance and act; the fact that she transitions smoothly between performing in her familial tongues as well as English puts us very much to shame. Not to mention the fact that she’s acted in various television series’ and commercials since she was in her tweens. It’s clear that for Weigel, performance is in her blood.
Amassing a mind-boggling online following through her YouTube covers before moving swiftly on to releasing original, multilingual content that speaks to her heritage and experiences, Jannine’s ascent to visibility is buoyed by her evident passion and enthusiasm for performing and learning. From videos of her guessing the names of Vietnamese artists; to singing covers of American and German artists; to her own multilingual original works, it is clear that this young go-getter is living in a global, tech-friendly society, and very adept to this environment too. We dug deep to find out more about how the bubbly artist’s multicultural background and experiences have influenced her budding philosophy and musical works.
1. You’ve accomplished so much for your young years! Do you have a particular milestone that you’re really proud of?
Thanks! Something that I'm really proud of until now, I think, is getting signed with Universal Music, because I've always wanted to work with Universal Music. And they just contacted me last year. So we kind of just started working together. And it was kind of still, like, … a surprise to me that they contacted me because I feel like Universal Music is such a big company, and that they decided to contact me and wanted to work with me is, like, a really great honor to me. So yeah.
Author: Jocelle Koh
This interview was done in collaboration with KKBOX SG
Many familiar with the K-pop or indie Korean scenes will have heard of Korean-American band Royal Pirates, whose English language tracks bridged many borders over the years with their unique musical stylings. Followers would also have heard about their talented bassist James JH Lee, whose passion for music allowed him to play as a bassist professionally for 13 years over a variety of genres including metal, indie rock and K-pop. In 2015, a debilitating and unfortunate accident severed James’ hand, putting an abrupt end to his career as a bassist, and forcing the musician to re-evaluate his life’s purpose and intention.
However, through all the ups and downs his journey to recovery took him on, there was only one constant in James’ life – his love for music. It was songwriting which helped him through; with songs from that dark period cumulating in the release of his latest work ‘The Light’. Borne from a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, we spoke to the now-artist about his uniquely empowering journey, and his transition from bassist to artist:
“So when you're playing the bass, you're supporting the band. You're kind of part of the foundation of the group…But … I have to do all of that now. And the singer has a lot of responsibility that I was not prepared for. So I eventually got to a point where I just let go. And I'm finally able to just be myself on stage. I just have fun with it. But when I was a bassist, I think I was trying to fit a role so hard that it's like trying to fit a square into a circle, kind of? It doesn't really make sense, especially with the type of music I was doing before. So now I just do whatever I want (laughs). And it's kind of liberating.”
Author: Jocelle Koh
Feature done in collaboration with KKBOX SG
The first time I interviewed Kumachan it was when he was still widely known as Poetek, back in 2016. He had just been nominated for the Golden Melody Awards that year in various categories for his hard-hitting debut album, and we caught up at the festival-affiliated performance he was featured at in Taipei. Rocking up in cornrows and a white t-shirt, his passion for music and storytelling as well as his quiet confidence left quite an impression on me.
Fast forward three years, Kumachan, formerly known as Poetek has just released his second album, climbing to new heights of creative aptitude with each new release. Having by now embarked on many notable collaborations with the likes of Julia Peng, Machi Didi, Nine Chen and Crown Du, I was intrigued to see how my second encounter with the current golden boy of rap would go.
Unsurprisingly, Kumachan was more or less the same as I’d remembered; a guy of few words except when it came to his music; yet with the uncanny ability to match his burgeoning creative ambitions with impeccable execution.
Yet when it comes to these discussions of heightened popularity; society guides us to read between the lines, to question if public figures such as Kumachan have ‘sold out’ after ‘making it’, or if they’ve ‘stayed real’.
Interview, Mandarin Feature and Graphics by Grace Chen
Translation by Jocelle Koh
Video Editing by Peiling Ngan
BTS Photos by Derek Hao
What is Mandarin hip hop? The term seems self-explanatory; hip hop music performed in Mandarin. Yet there are differences abound between the Mandarin and Western hip hop genres. One such difference is the meaning behind Mandarin hip hop tracks. The meanings behind these songs tend to be more nuanced and deeper; unlike the straightforward nature of Western hip hop songs. As opposed to Western hip hop, Mandarin hip hop has its subtleties and elegance, but also has certain language restrictions due to the rhythmic tendencies of the genre being one word to each beat. Yet such limitations have not hindered the advancements of the scene; but forced mandarin and Asian hip hop artists to be creative and adapt; powering forth at breakneck speed in recent years. From the prominence of 88rising to the push for hip hop’s mainstream surfacing in 2017, there is much to unpack when it comes to Mandarin hip hop in 2019. To start off the discussion, what better place to begin than with an interview with three members of Taiwanese rap label Kungfu Entertainment?
About Kungfu Entertainment
The name Kungfu Entertainment comes from the meaning that everyone has a martial art that they can hone. In the Mandarin rap world, there’s a saying that different hip hop labels specialise in different styles. As for Kungfu Entertainment, through the theme of Kungfu, every person on this earth can create something new. Rapper from Taiwan Dwagie 大支 as the founder of Kungfu Entertainment has taken two of his mentees to America to participate in the inaugural SXSW festival. On top of this, they’ve held three free events while they’re here to interact more intimately with their audiences. As a seminal figure in the Mandarin hip hop scene, Dwagie’s work has taken him across all kinds of societal topics including political commentary and stray animals. In his eventful career he has also worked with global rap greats such as the Dalai Lama, Nas, and Wutang’s Raekwon.