Taiwan’s road to democracy in the 1980s was paved by indie music. And, to a certain extent, so was South Korea’s as well. But now both countries are also producing pop music that attracts hordes of fans in countries around the world.
If you’re in the mood to enjoy some of this music from East Asia, check out these five virtual performances at this year’s TAIWANfest, which runs from September 2 to 12.
Most of us have heard of K-pop superstars BTS and iKon and the rapper PSY. But if you’re looking for a band that still retains some Korean traditions within modern music, you might want to check out The Tune. Billed as a world-music band, it plays Korean instruments such as the haegeum (traditional string), janggu (traditional percussion), and piri and taepyeongso (traditional woodwinds). And their shamanistic tunes are packaged in a contemporary and modern look, demonstrating that Korean music doesn’t have to pander completely to western tastes to attract an audience.
This popular Taiwanese band is paying tribute to overseas elders who fought for Taiwanese democracy from abroad from the 1960s through the 1980s. Some of these activists live in Canada and paid a tremendous price for their activism, being barred from returning to their homeland to visit friends and families. Sorry Youth’s song “Justice in Time” is dedicated to these elders, who haven’t always received their due for their contributions toward liberating Taiwan from martial law.
Suana Emuy Cilangasay
Music producer, singer-songwriter, and theatre artist Suana Emuy Cilangasay didn’t know about his Indigenous heritage until he visited his mother’s Amis hometown in the mountains of eastern Taiwan. That led him on a search for his identity, which involved giving up his Chinese name and studying tribal languages with the help of his grandmother, mother, and godmother. Cilangasay also teamed up with Cree visual artist Kent Monkman on a music video. It features Monkman’s stunning paintings of Canada’s shameful treatment of Indigenous peoples juxtaposed with powerful vocals and memorable traditional and western instrumental music.
Taiwan’s Yaway Mawring writes and sings in the Indigenous Atayal language. But she didn’t always do this—it was only after she became a mother that she felt it was necessary to embrace her mother’s language in her compositions. Her first album, Swasieq, is named after her First Nation and it captured two Golden Melody Awards in Taiwan. Her second disc, ‘Iaqu’ ‘Tayal’ (Let’s Sing Together) has a grand ambition: through nursery songs for children in Atayal, she’s hoping to help revive the language for her young listeners.
Flying Dance Studios
In another TAIWANfest nod to South Korea, the leader of Vancouver’s Flying Dance Studios, YingYing Wang, demonstrates how K-pop is reaching out across the Pacific Ocean and shaping not only stylistic tastes but also hip-hop moves in our town.