Sunday, July 12, 2009

the truth about the taiwan music industry

They didn’t want me to be in the white guys’ way… I felt I was pushed into a rhythm and blues corner to keep out of rocker’s way, because that’s where the money is. When ‘Tutti Frutti’ came out… They needed a rock star to block me out of white homes because I was a hero to white kids. The white kids would have Pat Boone upon the dresser and me in the drawer ‘cause they liked my version better, but the families didn’t want me because of the image that I was projecting."[16]

Little Richard, on why he got sidelined by white singer Pat Boone

the taiwan "music" industry is one big propaganda machine. but propaganda to what end? to answer this one must understand a little about the concept of taiwan status.

after taiwan was kicked out of the UN in the 70s in favor of diplomatic relations with mainland china, it has been in a sort of limbo- a country that is not a country. an entity that has to beg and scrounge for recognition and allies. many of it's diplomatic allies consist of 3rd world island nations and despot countries who have been bought off with the abundant reserves of the ROC, thanks to their semi-socialist control of industries such as tobacco, steel, rail (all of which they pillaged from the Japanese after WWII).

everytime taiwan tries to assert itself either in opinon or joining organizations suc as the WHO etc, they get threatend by china. then the US also tells Taiwan when and where to open it's mouth.

this kind of manhandling frustrates the taiwanese people and their politicians and has been a source of inferiority complex for them. so they try everything they can to assert a feeling of "superiority", hence and emphasis on localization in the music industry, whether the music sucks or not.

also westernization of taiwan (in the surface sense not the philosophical) has been quite rapid. as taiwan is closest to the US both in military need and as a trading partner, this was natural.

however, chiang kai shek was not a fool. the ROC observed that music was a threat. elvis, the beatles, the hippie movement, were things he couldn't allow in his fascist island paradise. music was tightly controlled. yes elvis got in, but not the threating elvis that we know.

taiwan basicaly went thru the 50s and 60s in a vaccum. few people in taiwan are on the same page as the rest of the world in discussing modern music. it's as if they had been asleep for 50 years and have to have everything explained to them. even japan is not like this. taiwan people do not feel they are with the world. it's an us/them mentality. they never look at themselves as being a part of the world culture.

whats worse, the music industry in taiwan wants it that way, because foriegn artists outsell local records in actual sales. people know that local pop stars are manufactured, and thus don't buy their records. that's a good sign. the bad is, what taiwan people know about foriegn music is as FORIEGN MUSIC, again the us/them mentality.

the taiwan record industry exists as a form of control, mostly to child down the population, but also as a morale building agent, to show taiwanese what taiwanese can do. that is admirable. but this form of localzation has created a "special ed class" for the musically untalented, and a highly subjective double standard for musical performance (ie, taiwanese don't have to play that well) as well as cronyism and an elitist only participation in entertainment.


  1. Randy, by "child down," I assume you mean infantilize.
    Thank you for writing solely about stuff which I have been repeatedly coming back to over the past four years on my own blog (at least in a lot of the archives), but not as obsessively as you are doing so far.

  2. Hmm...I think actually there is nothing wrong in identifying if the music is foreign or not. Knowing where the products or wanting to know where it is from is normal. Not be able to identify if something is foreign or not would be extremely weird and unlikely.

    For example, a lot of American like to watch Japanese animation etc. But they know they are Japanese culture. There is nothing wrong with identifying something as foreign.

    So long as people can enjoy other culture's work etc, and not viewing others as inferior, but just different, I don't think there is a big problem.

    At the same time, there is nothing wrong in developing local culture. It's just natural. Although indeed in Taiwan's case I am sure due to past history KMT still has a huge influence in the entertainment industry. Just hope this is slowly changing.

  3. thank you all for your comments.
    while there is nothing wrong with developing local culture, there IS something wrong with excluding others based on paranoid bias and cronyism. there is also something wrong with using culture to form a mind set or a way of thinking in exclusion to other avenues of thought. and it is also wrong to use mind control,however subtle.
    like i said, this will NOT be a middle of the road, everything is dandy taiwan site. prepare yourself.

  4. also "child down" is a hell of a lot better term than infantilize. i rather like it.
    but thanks for teaching me the proper word dude.

  5. My parents came from Taiwan. Although I do not or read Mandarin, my parents still taught me how to converse in Taiwanese fluently.

    A couple years ago for the first time, I visited Taiwan, Japan, and China on several business trips. I was so impressed with the Japanese music. They are very unique. However, I am actually more impressed with Taiwanese (non-Mandarin) music. They are even more unique.

    I never knew about Teresa Teng until a couple years ago almost a decade after her death. She had a voice rivaled our Olivia Newton-John. Teresa’s voice could cover more frequency range as Taiwanese music demands than ONJ’s.

    Doing a little bit research, in the 20’s and 30’s while the rest of the world had music covering only at most two octaves, the Taiwanese music was already covering 3 octaves. I think it was due to the Aborigine influence. At that time, Taiwanese music started to exhibit in sad moods. According to several historians, it was a political protest to China on the abandonment of Taiwan to the Japanese. Then, Japanese music started to exhibit the same saddened moods. When the war started, the Japanese while did not then started to shut down Taiwanese music. After the war, Chiang the bastard also did the same. So what does anyone expect not to see a vacuum until the marshal was lifted? After the martial law, it came out like a bang. Wow, awesome music!!! Long live Taiwanese music.

  6. just because i use a green heading doesn't mean you can spurt out localist bullshit propaganda here.
    they have done nothing, because they lack the PERSONALITY to play good music, thanks to confucianism, and the evils of Taoism

  7. taiwan music came out a like a bang alright, copying whatever they could because their cookie cutter personalities couldn't think of a way to be unique.

  8. and if they're so good, why are they so afraid of foriegners? america music never needed any protection NOR help getting sold around the world.
    except for in a chinese restaurants, nobody wants to hear taiwan music, and THAT not the tawain music of today, but from the 80s. that was the ONLY time they ever were unique, and they blew that by trying to be hip hop.

  9. and about taiwan music covering 3 octaves: opera in the west has long had 3 octaves so you're full of shit on that one.
    no green party localist propaganda here.
    your people DID do something wonderful and unique in the 80s but they threw it away.

  10. >your people DID do something wonderful and unique in the 80s but they threw it away.

    You should post more about this. I, for one, have no idea what Taiwan was doing musically in the 80s (let alone any other decade).

    1. He may be referring to this:

      Here's a sample of this music:

      The instrumentation is full and expertly performed. The melodies original and unique.

      Immediately after this renaissance came an almost completely synth sound in the music. Conforming with what the rest of the world was doing at the time.

  11. they actually did pretty well. they used a very chinese sound which i liked.
    article coming on taiwan music , past and present.
    thanks for coming by.

  12. look up wang jieh and some of the others from that time. it was really good music, uniquely chinese/taiwanese. i really miss that sound.