15. Orbiting and Down-to-Earth: A Conversation with Lim Giong about His Music, Art, and Mind



1. 林強, “向前走”

1. Lim Giong, “Marching Forward” (Xiang Qian Zou)

From: Marching Forward (1990) (the first Taiwanese album)

Music & Lyrics: Lim Giong


Lim Giong (or Lin Chiang in Mandarin) (b.1964) is primarily known as the rock singer who toppled the Mandarin hegemony of the local music industry when it was at the height of its popularity. His first Taiyu pop rock album, Marching Forward (1990), shot through Taiwan’s post martial law society like a thunderbolt, resonating in an atmosphere charged by massive political upheaval. The MV scene in “Marching Forward” was selected at the newly-built Taipei Station at that time. The song resonates with youth bidding farewell to their hometowns and arriving at Taipei. Against the backdrop of the rising nativist consciousness in Taiwan, the song also indicates that the society is in the mood of “marching forward.”

2. 林強, “綠卡”

2. Lim Giong, “Green Card”

From: Entertainment World (1993).

Music & Lyrics: Lim Giong
Arranger: Jerry Lo (羅百吉)
Debut: March 18th, 1994


Lim Giong released his third album, Entertainment World, in 1994. The album was regarded as one of his most experimental and breakthrough classics, although it was sold poorly at that time. For recording this album, Lim Giong traveled to London to collaborate with the famous British 4AD producer John Fryer. The music of Entertainment World incorporated Taiwanese pop rock, techno, industrial rock and ambient electronic music. It is both avant-garde and pleasant melody. The lyrics of this album express an increasing aversion to society, especially to the media and entertainment industry. This album won the overwhelming acclaims after these years and was appraised its status as far ahead of the pop music industry in Taiwan. In addition to the song “It’s nice in the Army” which is an industrial and noise rock with vocal roaring to the irony of military service system, “Green Card” is one of the brisk and ironic sketches, which was written to describe his music partner and song arranger, Jerry Lo.

3. 林強, “自我毀滅”

3. Lim Giong, “Self-destruction”

From: Goodbye South, Goodbye (OST, 1996). Theme song of Goodbye South, Goodbye

Music & Lyrics: Lim Giong
Awarded “Best Film Song” at the 33rd Golden Horse Awards


After Entertainment World, Lim said goodbye to pop music and “New Taiyu Song.” He acted and sang in Dust of Angels (1992) and Treasure Island (1992) and began working regularly with Hou Hsiao-hsien, appearing in leading roles and wrote the music of The Puppetmaster (1993) and Goodbye South, Goodbye (1996). According to his self-analysis, this song was meant to completely turn around his past image as a “new Taiyu song” pop singer. Lim did gradually drift away from pop music and focus on soundtrack writing.

4. 林強, “A Pure Person”

4. Lim Giong, “A Pure Person”

From: Millennium Mambo (OST, 2001). Theme song of Millennium Mambo.

Music & Lyrics by Lim Giong


“A Pure Person” is an exquisite melodic Techno that was the theme song of Millennium Mambo (2001), a film by Hou Hsiao Hsien. The compositions blended electronic music, Taiwan’s ambient sounds, spoken word and traditional music. Lim Giong murmured “Kind, ordinary, happy, pure people” in Taiyu at the beginning of the song with fine, regular electronic beats, lined with murky guitar sounds. In the movie, this is the opening music of Shu Qi holding a cigarette in one hand and walking on the blue light flyover. The snapshots atmosphere of youth falling is almost the Taiwanese version of “Born Slippy” from the film, Trainspotting. In 2017, this music was played again in the Paris Fashion Week as the background music for The Chloé Spring-Summer 2018 Show.

5. 林強, “Keep Walking”

5. Lim Giong, “Keep Walking”

From: Insect Awaken (2005, CD + DVD)

Music: Lim Giong
Narrator: Lin Hwai Min (林懷民)

Insects Awaken was released in 2005 in Europe on a French label (MK2.) and, a few months later, in Taiwan on the Taiwanese label EWise Digital Multimedia Corp. Lim developed for the album an original perspective which brings sound and image in interaction. This form, “Stereo Picture,” is sometimes translated as “Three Dimensional Sound Picture.” In the album, you can hear the sounds of big gongs, Chinese musical instruments, and opera, plus his personal songs, and there are also Taiwanese elements such as “Northwest Rain” electric ballads, Taiwanese poems, and the ambient sound in the night market. The languages spoken are Mandarin, Taiwanese (Taiyu), English and French. On account of the album, Lim Giong was invited to perform at The Cannes Film Festival that year. In 2006 it was awarded the Best Crossover Album award at the 17th Golden Melody Awards of Taiwan.

6. Blacklist Studio, “民主阿草”

6. Blacklist Studio, “A Democracy Bumpkin”

From: Song of Madness (抓狂歌, 1989)

Composer: Wang Ming Huei (王明輝)
Lyrics: Wang Hua (王華)
Artist: Will Lin (林暐哲), Chen Ming Chang(陳明章)
Debut: November, 1989


Formed in the wake of the Nationalist Party’s (KMT) 1987 lifting of martial law, Blacklist Studio played a pioneer role in the popularization and politicization of the New Taiyu Song. Their 1989 album, Songs of Madness, remains a landmark in the history of popular music in Taiwan, and a crucial sonic document of the upsurge in nativist consciousness and democratic activism which characterized the period. Blacklist Studio’s lyrically sophisticated songs such as ‘Imperial Taipei’ (Taipei diguo) and ‘Democracy Bumpkin’ (Minzhu acao) provided epic and politically pointed testimony to the tribulations of modern Taiwanese history. Their music mixes reggae and rap which can tell Taiwan’s social phenomena in a way that contains the most text. The lyrics depict the situation at the beginning of Taiwan ’s lifting of martial law at that time. The government has announced the lifting of martial law, but the official media still blocked news of social movements, discredited the labor movement, the student movement, and the environmental protection movement. This series of crackdowns has resulted in endless protest actions.

7. 陳明章, “下午的一齣戲”

7. Chen Ming Chang, “An Afternoon Drama”

From: An Afternoon Drama

Composer: Chen Ming Chang
Lyrics: Chen Ming Yu (陳明瑜)
Arranger & Producer: Will Lin (林暐哲), CinCin Lee(李欣芸)
Artist: Chen Ming Chang
Debut: December, 1990


In 1990, Chen Ming Chang released the album, An Afternoon Drama, another representative work of the New Taiyu Song at that time. In his works, Chen Ming Chang uses traditional pentatonic scales to represent Taiwanese songs with a modern flavor. One hears the sadness and nostalgia for the loss of Taiwanese culture, as well as a critique of contemporary society’s neglect for history and culture. The singing voice is full of vitality, showing nostalgia for childhood memories and past history.