01. Profiling a Postwar Trajectory of Taiwanese Popular Music: Nativism in Metamorphosis and Its Alternatives



1. 陽光合唱團第, “The Best of Ventures”

1. Sunshine Combo, “The Best of Ventures”

From: Sunshine Combo vol.1, released in 1969.



Shortly before Sunshine went to Singapore as a ‘house band’ for a restaurant for two years, they recorded three albums with months, mainly “covers’ from US popular music, with only two self-composing instrumental tunes on the third album.
It is easy for listeners to recognize from this medley that Wu, Sheng-Tze, the guitarist, was praised as the best guitarist in hot music scene in Taiwan.

2. 鄧麗君, “賣肉粽” (1974)

2. Teresa Teng, “Hot Rice Dumpling”

Backed by Sunshine Combo, without players credited.


Teresa Teng was so huge as star not only in Mandarin pop, but in Taiyu pop too, not to mention her popularity in Southeast countries and in Japan. This song was composed in the 1950s and has been a Taiyu pop standard up to now.
Sunshine Combo was one of the most demanded as recording session players for Mandarin music business during late 1960s and early 1970s. And might as well for Taiyu popular music. One of the reasons that they could gain two-year contract to station in a Singaporean restaurant, I was told by its bandleader, Wu dao-hsung, was that they knew and learned to play most of Taiyu pop songs, while other bands either only played US or Mandarin songs.

3. 姚蘇蓉, “無敵情報員” (circa 1970)

3. Yao Su-yong, “Secret Agent Man”

From: Oh, Summer Wine, A-Go-Go, vol. 2.

Song: P.F. Sloan and Steve Barry
Lyrics: Mao-weng Huang
Players uncredited.


Yao was one of the hottest Divas in Mandarin popular music before the arrival of folksong era. As ‘hot music ‘musicians found no place in releasing original music, top players became studio session players. During “Golden Era” of Mandarin pop (i.e., 1950s up to mid-1970s), most of songs are penned by only several lyricists and composers. Yet we can hear from these songs a global trend of ‘band sound’ prevailed and some of these songs are sought after during youtube era by music aficionados.

4. 楊弦, “民歌手” (1975)

4. Yang Hsien, “The Folk Singer”

Lyrics: Yu, Kwan-chung
Song: Yang, Hsien
Players uncredited.



Following the 1970s US sing-songwriter compositions and sounds, Yang Hsien was taken as the one of the “fathers of folksong”. Contrasting Mandarin popular music which emphasizing “stars” outlooks and performances, these so-called amateur folk singers appeared casually and sung in more concerned ways in lyrics and attitude, but not necessarily socially concerned.

5. The whole album stream of Golden Rhyme Award, 1977



Although artists were all college youth, the recordings were backed by a group of session players that consisted of basic four-piece band recruited from previous hot music players and small ensemble or chamber musicians recruited from classical musicians.
We can see the following- up ten volumes of compilation made by Synco (or Shinlee) records as a capitalizing of Chinese Modern folksong movement. Since its debut compilation album released after selection of acts from competition called ‘youth song performance convention’, Synco and other cashing-in records companies together commercialized a genre called ‘college song’ that eventually paved way for Mandarin popular music sound and business model in the 1980.

6. 黑名單工作室, “台北帝國” (1989)

6. Blacklist Workshop, “Taipei Empire”

Song: Ming-huei Wang
Lyrics: Ming-huei Wang
Players: Blacklist workshop; Midi: Keith Stuart; Guitars: Rashid, Ming-chang, Chen; ensemble: led by Zu-hwei Chen.

Blacklist Workshop–a group including Ming-huei Wang, Ming-chang Chen, Wai-Zhe Lin, and Shu-Ying Yei- was historically and musically praised as a pioneering new style dubbed as “new Taiyu song”. Its debut album (sadly it only released two albums and the second one was released in 1996) prompted flesh sound for music audience and cultural circles when released in 1989. The album was sung in Taiyu with hybrid sound of Anglo-American rock conventions, Thai pop sound , black music’s rhythms. Released by major label, Rock Records and produced by Index (a production branch for indie label, Crystal Records), “new Taiyu song” seemed to find a cooperative way for indie label Crystal Rerecords in Mandarin market (although sung in Taiyu, “new Taiyu song” aimed primarily at Mandarin music audience).

7. 陳明章, “下午的一齣戲” (1990)

7. Chen Ming-Chang, “An Afternoon Drama”

Song: Chen Ming-chang
Lyrics: Chen Ming-yu and Chen Ming-chang
Arrangement: Lin Wai-Zhe, Lee Sin-yun.

From Blacklist workshop and after released his debut album in Crystal records (recorded live a university solo acoustic performance), Chen was dubbed as ‘heir to Chen, Da (a legendary grass- root troubadour folk singer, ‘discovered’ in early 1970s by Taipei cultural circle). Different from his debut solo album, “An afternoon Drama” was orchestrated with the help of MIDI arrangement (since late 1980s MIDI become a prevailing way for arrangement in economic and aesthetic terms) and multi-tracked recording techniques. Sung entirely in Taiyu, its sound texture was a mix of classic and folk as lyrics offered audiences to imagine through dramatized narrators’ lens of mundane life, tale of historical migration to Taiwan from Mainland China, homage to Chen Da, and one song sung by a female vocalist Pan Li-li to dramatized the life of a prostitute in Peitao (where it has been served as a leisure zone for nightlife since Japanese colonial time until 1980s), a northern rural area of Taipei city.

8. 林強, “向前走” (1990)

8. Lin Chiang (Lim Giong), “Marching forward”

Song and lyrics: Lim Giong
MIDI arrangement: Lo Hong-wu.


Lim Giong’s Taiyu debut album, Marching Forward, sold more than four hundred thousand copies and made him an instant superstar. Produced by in-house production company of Rock Records, Mandala Works, this album prompted for the major to capitalize “new Taiyu song’ trend. Lim himself personalized one of the common themes in previous Taiyu songs, that is, city migrants. The lyrics is a first-person narration of a male youngster from central Taiwan (himself) to Taipei city (we usually term as going to the “northern” in idiom) chasing and realizing dreams–the latter runs counter to the previous sad Taiyu songs that usually described masculine sentiment of melancholy that only can find narrators’ salvation and solace when they return to their homeland. Specifically, in lyric, Lim sings in bold disavowal with Lo Ta-yu, who laments Taipei not as his home in 1981, and urging audience to positively “feel” colorful life in Taipei.

9. 朱約信, “做兵的阿清” (1991)

9. Joytopper, “Killing Field”

Song: Ju Yuk-sin
Lyrics: Lin Lian-zhe
Players: Ju Yuk-sin, acoustic guitar
Wu Bai: electric guitar
Paul: saxophone.

Ju Yuk-Sin, before he went to major label in 1994 and adapted himself as Joytopper, has been an eccentric figure in Taiwan’s popular music history. Self-mocking, pastiche and parody has been his creative trademark. As a die-hard pro-Taiwan independence Taiyu singer, in this debut album, he recorded in ‘studio live’ with Wu Bai as electric guitarist and Canadian saxphonist Paul. Most of songs in this album are against KMT regime (nationalist authoritarian party ruling Taiwan since postwar until 2000). A film and music ‘nerd’, he uses the album art as a pastiche play of hand draw and graffiti, visually and semiotically chaotic is his intention. Yet, as shown in this song condemning conscripted military service, his lyrics are highly critical and he has been praised as the first protest song singer.

10. 伍佰, “思念親像一條河” (1992)

10. Wu Bai, “Homesick Is Like a River”

Song and lyric: Wu Bai
Arrangement: Wu Bai
Wu Bai and Chiang Zhen-ming: electric guitars.
Wu Bai, Keith Stuart, Dino Zavolta, Ringo: MIDI program.


Before Wu Bai gained his mainstream popularity with his band, “China Blue” in 1994, he had released one album, playing electric guitar for several artists released by Crystal Records. The Song is taken from his debut album, “Falling in love is a happy thing”, produced by Crystal Records, released by Pony Canyon Taiwan. His Taiyu lyrics branding with blues rock and funky rhythm pioneered in the early 1990s in Taiwan. The song is about his homesick after he had come to Taipei from a southern city, Chia-yi for several years.
Wu Bai has been crowned as “king of rock and roll” in Taiwan for his energetic skillful live performance and writing popular ballads. Although he has be linked with strong “Taiwanese” characteristics, in a span of 15 albums from 1992 to 2018, he has only released three Taiyu albums.

11. 伍佰 & China Blue, “台灣製造” (2005)

11. Wu Bai and China Blue, “Taiwan Made”

Song, lyrics, arrangement and program: Wu Bai
Wu Bai: Guitar and vocal; Shiao Chu: bass; Big Cat: Keyboard; Dino Zavolta: drums.

When “king of rock and roll” rebranded as “king of Taike rock”, Wu Bai’s “Taiwanese-ness” gained a stylizing clothing in 2015-6. “Taike” had used to be an idiom to degrade Taiwanese lifestyles used by Mainlander Chinese diaspora for over several decades since 1949. As music, entertainment industries and hipster circle manufactured a coolness of Taike in the decade of 2000s, hybridization in styles and political spectrum reined cultural discourses. Wu Bai’s song is a case in point with electronic sound texture “preaching” that we Taiwanese have taken and blended whatever needed from other countries and our culture is beautifully plural as we also cherish various ethnic languages.

12. Chthonic’s concert in front of Chiang Kei-shek’s Memorial Hall, 2015.12.26

Article on The Guardian

“Let me stands up like a Taiwanese,” shouted Freddy Lim, who is the core figure of death metal band, Chthonic. Dubbed as “Black Sabbath of Taiwan” by The Guardian, Chthonic sings in Taiyu with death metal sound in pentatonic scale and minor keys. Controversies arise as Chthonic follows a Nordic death mental convention by taking Taiwan’s “ethnic and national’ histories as themes of mythologizing with sonic dramatizing.
When Freddy ran a parliamentary election in winter of 2015 in Taipei, he caused a huge sensation when mixing his metal images and pro-Taiwan independence, anti-China. Elected and then has become one of the core figures of newly formed New Power Party, Freddy represents as a symbol to materialize a combination between music and politics in Taiwan.