Thursday, October 13, 2011

Musically Made in Taiwan

Neda Uluby of NPR had a phenomenal piece on Taiwanese music as contributing to its identity.  She spoke about Taiwanese Death Metal, as well as traditional Taiwanese songs done in a modern style.  The piece focused on music as a form of expression post-martial law, and the use of Taiwanese and aboriginal languages as a form of expression:
Chthonic's pretty famous in death metal circles worldwide, but its fanbase in Taiwan is a little unusual for a band that cavorts around stage in black makeup. "They get old people coming to their shows," says Brown. "They're sitting in the audience smiling happily and enjoying this head-banging music."
These old people, says Brown, appreciate freedom of expression as only those who have lived without it can. Chthonic incorporates Tawainese mythology and takes pro-human rights positions on sensitive subjects like China's occupation of Tibet. And those older fans, who were once forbidden from speaking Taiwanese, get a huge kick out if hearing it sung like this.
Using music to rediscover Taiwanese identity is also the work of a 40-year-old classically-trained singer named YunYa Hsieh, who's known professionally as Mia Hsieh. She leads a group called A Moving Sound that explores traditional Taiwanese music including songs from its 14 aboriginal tribes. Music like it was suppressed during decades of marital law. Now Hsieh combines it with decidedly contemporary sensibilities.
The piece was a tremendous bit of cultural and public diplomacy for Taiwan, and is a reminder that the best forms of such business come not from when you promote what you are doing, but when other people notice of your authentic, organic cultural idiosyncrasies and share it.

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