A Beginner’s Guide to Taiwan’s Music Scene 2021

October Feature: Taiwan boasts a vibrant music scene both in the pop and world music genre. Here’s a unique country with a unique music scene not seen anywhere in Southeast Asia.

ABAO Taiwan's indigenous artists goes mainstream in 2020. Music Press Asia

ABAO Taiwan's indigenous artists goes mainstream in 2020. Music Press Asia

The staff at Music Press Asia has eyes on Taiwan this quarter. This list isn’t an exhaustive list to know- or hear-all. But serves the curiosity to increase the agility of the mind. Who wants to rush for Taiwan anyway? Here’s why Taiwan is still a powerful hubbub of Asia’s music entertainment scene and the Mandarin world.

Taiwan’s tribal community over the last few decades is a story of grit revival. Its ancient sounds together with its instruments represents a cultural heritage documented and distributed across the world.

In its efforts to be in touch with its cultural identity, Taiwan are taking baby steps to understanding its roots. This statement are no less important than developing technological ideas for the future. But serves to educate and ground morals and values that are significantly unique to the region of Asia-Pacific.

A Revival of Ancient Tunes: ‘Taroko Legends and Eastward Ho!’

Today, the Truku (Taroko) indigenous people are facing a challenging stage in their preservation of its aural heritage. In a recent reportage by Taiwan Panorama, it tells the tale of a lifeguard, Pi Teyru, who left his career to return home. Back to Hualien County’s Xiulin Township where his mother resides. What motivated them in the beginning saw some of the tribe’s most ancient tunes being recorded.

After establishing the Kdusan Music Studio, Pi Teyru published a collection of tunes, the tribes very first recording. It revealed old, lost headhunting practices and ceremonies performed using a handmade flute (utu pegagu). Little physical remnants of the past remained today, nonetheless, a historical piece of musical instrument displayed in the National Taiwan University Museum of Anthropology.

This piece of history even made it to film. In Forests of Taroko, Pi Teyru describes the life of the Truku people and its harmonious living with the forest. The story went on to win a Platinum Remi at the WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival in 2020.

Tribal Music is now categorized under the ‘World Music’ genre and seeing a rising prominence alongside other mainstream genres like pop. Understanding the cultural shift of Taiwan’s musical identity, its evolution in its creative endeavours are always approached daringly and not inhibiting. Even for some of its most ancient tunes.

Pop Culture Never Dies: The Heart of the Mandarin Music World (90s – recent)

While Mandarin is the former mode to communicate, Hakka and Hokkien remain some of Taiwan’s most passionate dialect. Its popular artists today have great track records when it comes to the game of endurance. Stretching into their second decade of their music career, artists including Jay Chou, Jolin Tsai, Mayday and a-Mei continues to be the country’s top performing artists today. And the list is still growing and evolving.

The Golden Melody Charts, as far as we can remember, plays a substantial role when it comes to hitting a reeling frenzy for some of the Mandarin world’s best hits. A strategic effort at a national level has yield superbly because for the last few decades Taiwanese artists have held the power to its gateway into the pop genre.

As a result, its music export and distribution continues to generate, actively, some of the most profitable creative investment in the history of the music industry. This consistency we talk about hasn’t yet hit its ceiling because its longevity lies in its uncontested, long term efforts and plans held largely responsible by the state. For them, the task promoting music and their talents lies in its equal treatment of skills. Whether in art, or music or science, talent and meritocracy are treated with great respect.

Experience Recommend: World Music Festival Taiwan 2021

The World Music Festival is set to happen from 29 Oct-2 Nov. This five-day event brings together a celebration merging contemporary element with traditional classics. Featuring artists as far as Iran, Malaysia, US, UK, Columbia, Brazil, and Canada. This annual event is a valuable piece of cultural heritage. At its innermost core, the live music scene has seen better days pre-covid times. However, in today’s present time serves the greater message – to educate youth and preserve history.

For the full program list of the music festival, click here.

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