Driven, sophisticated and exceptionally gifted, Taiwanese Classical-Jazz pianist/singer-songwriter Amanda Wu’s lengthy title is a mouthful for most, but is a testament to her long list of achievements and eclectic musical tastes. Born in Taiwan, the child prodigy started studying the piano at age 4, rapidly advancing her musical prowess before undertaking further study at the McGill University in Montreal in Jazz Piano. She has now played with the likes of Cirque Du Soleil, composed and arranged for Taiwanese artists Joanna Wang and Liu Hsuan, as well as travelled the world as an accomplished pianist and performer in her own right. She talks to us about how her passion first came about:
“When I was 3 years old, I loved a famous TV drama called “一代女皇” and watched it every day. One day, I started to sing the whole song with the completely accurate melody, pitch and rhythm. Moreover, at that time, I have not learned piano yet, but I just climbed on the piano and played the melody of the song. My family was very shocked!”
Having realised she was gifted from that point onwards, Wu has since travelled the world and accumulated much experience since. Her advice to those struggling to make it into the industry was honest, but uplifting:
“If you clearly know that you are gifted, don’t waste this wonderful gift no matter how much difficulties that you might face. However, don’t do it just because you want the fame, attention, and fortune. It is a tough path, not smooth at all, you just have to be consistent, confident and patient. Also, to be open-minded to admire other people’s success are very important, too.”
Through her words and of course through her music, Amanda’s wealth of experience is clearly seen. Alas, she is as eloquent a speaker as she is a performer. The motivated 30-year-old infuses her compositions with personal anecdotes and words of wisdom, and her latest EP 'Journey On Earth: Volume 2' is no different. Amanda shares with us the idea behind her ‘Journey On Earth’ series:
"'The Journey On Earth' is the series of my original music. Volume 1 is more specific for the “Unknown” stage of life. There are 3 songs in Volume 1. The first 2 songs are composed when putting myself to explore the mysterious Unknown at age 20 in Montreal (studying) and age 30 in New York (seeking for higher goal for career and life). I wrote them to inspire people that life is never easy, but just need to be fearless and consistent. The third one is to express that the solid love is the most powerful thing to support us conquering all the difficulties in the Unknown. I have a cousin and love him very much. When I feel struggled, as long as I think of him, I feel happy and positive right away. It is dedicated to my beloved cousin.
Volume 2: “Stories of Time” is a broader concept. Because living on earth is living with the stream of timeline, as time goes by, we are growing, changing and also producing so many stories. Timing is telling us so many stories as long as we pay attention closely to listen to and observe on ourselves and others. I wrote them because I hope people can be more aware of the change of their inner world and the whole era.”
Interviewer: Jamie Deer
Writer: Jocelle Koh
Note: The Chinese version of this article was released on Streetvoice Yahoo in collaboration with Jamie Deer.
2016 was the year that Lara released her new single “Where Do We Go” in both English and Chinese. The Lara we know and love today is in fact a little different from the shy, demure girl who was associated with Nan Quan Mama and Jay Chou previously. After a period of rest and reflection, her new single “Where Do We Go” breaks boundaries while truly marking Lara’s return to the industry.
Discussing the general image many held of Lara, perhaps many would have described her as an artist with a unique and sweet voice. Yet in terms of her personality, many viewed her as an ice princess due to her quiet demeanour while present at events and performances. Thus, her vivacious, playful nature came as a shock to interviewer Jamie Deer when Veronin appeared on his live.me livestream. As the interview went on , it seems that her cool image was in fact just a defensive mechanism honed by years of training in the entertainment industry.
“Public figures can easily lose sight of what they are doing, because you will automatically try and analyse other people’s perspective to figure out your next move, and as a result you keep certain things in your heart…actually I’m pretty chatty, but in the past, I always hoped that I could present a perfect image to others. But now I guess everyone more or less knows the truth (laughs).”
Photo provided by Anrong Xu.
If I were to describe Big Phony in three words, it would be ‘humbled by experience’. Not in the way that many artists nowadays use the phrase, as an offhand statement to describe some corporate-sponsored once-off activity, but as a philosophy of speaking only from experience, making decisions that one can be happy with, and being humbled by having the autonomy to make such decisions. And in a world where many face the need to compromise between artistic integrity and economic stability, Bobby Choy a.k.a Big Phony’s story is a sight for sore eyes. A talented musician who highly values the artistic integrity of his work, Choy’s often melancholy blend of mellow indie folk is unassuming yet deep, his lyrics always honest and delivered thoughtfully in his gentle, kind timbre. Debuting in the States in 2005, the seasoned singer-songwriter has come a long way since he took on the stage name ‘Big Phony’ in an attempt to handle others’ negative perceptions of his music.
“When I released my first album in 2005 I was afraid to release it as "Bobby Choy". I felt self-conscious about a perception I felt people might have of me given the way I looked... I think I had less faith in people back then, and in myself. I hated the thought and possibility of anyone judging my songs on anything but the music itself. I think it didn't help that I had no artists I looked up to that looked as I did while growing up... You definitely see more Asian Americans representing in the mainstream today. The hope is that a world where anything seems possible reflects a space where young people know without a doubt they deserve to be there just as much as anyone else. Fear keeps you from moving forward in art and in life. I’m not entirely sure what the state is now for the Asian American indie industry but I just hope there’s less of that fear I faced as a youth.”
Choy relates back to a story retold by many Asian-Americans, citing a lack of representation in the media as a stumbling block for their careers. But now releasing his latest self-titled album “Big Phony”, his stage name has taken on a different level of significance, reflecting a turnaround of perspective for the singer-songwriter.
“It's one of those things where I've always figured I'd one day release when I got signed to a major label or something and they'd issue my first release a self titled album to legitimize me as an artist ready for the spotlight. Nonsense really. I figure it was time to move on and lay to rest silly notions like that. I think this album also is pretty eclectic and people so far have completely different favorite songs on it. I think that's what I want "Big Phony" music to uphold. Something for everyone.”
And I too like to believe that Big Phony’s music contains something for everyone. Choy’s willingness to share his experiences and eloquence in expressing himself through his music is admirable, effortlessly rendering him relatable to many audiences. He talks about the importance of songwriting to him, and shares a few anecdotes about the creative process for several songs on his new record:
“For me writing is a way to move on. To accept the good and the bad that comes your way because you know that at least it served a purpose. A song can sometimes be proof that you're getting by in life just fine, or that you’re ready to let go of a memory it's associated with. This album speaks on levels of that sentiment I feel. It's less dark than my past works, I think. And some of these songs I wrote years ago but they're only seeing the light of day now.”
On the Count of Three
“One song on this album "On the Count of Three" I wrote around 18 years ago. Some memories stay with you longer than you imagined you'd need them to and then one day you're finally cutting the cord. It's essentially a love song I wrote back when I didn't know anything about love at the time.”
Shoot the Sh*t
“My favorite track on this album is called “Shoot the Sh*t”. I wrote it in the bathroom. It’s a song about lifting up your friends that are too proud to ask for help. I think the take on the album was the 2nd/3rd and last take where I sang the wrong lyrics a couple of times on it. We went with it anyhow because it felt okay. Goh (Big Phony’s Producer Goh Nakamura) gave me a big hug after that take. Haha.”
Hanging on a Thread
“Hanging on a Thread is a song about taking control and doing something that matters to you. Even if no one gets what you’re doing and you’re on your own. There’s nothing deep about it. It’s simple. Don’t let anyone get in your way. Actually the last line in the lyrics used to say "So get out out of my f***ing way!" Didn't make the final cut ultimately, haha. It's still on the demo though. An Rong Xu did a great job on the music video. I basically sent him all the songs on the record and that’s the one he chose so we went with it. It almost didn’t happen because I didn’t have a budget for a music video. Thankfully he was in stopping by Seoul briefly and had the idea of just having friends of ours simply run. They were a huge help. Good man that An Rong Xu. So incredibly talented.”
'Hanging on a Thread' Official Music Video
Choy also spouts praises of latest album producer Goh Nakamura, who came up with the concept of recording the album entirely in analog:
“Goh and I had discussed from the beginning of going analog just because it's how our heroes got it done back in the day. Honestly, it was his idea. He was right. I really didn't know what I was getting myself into but I couldn't be more happy we went through with it. Not sure I'll ever be the same again because of it. I do think it's made me a better musician and possibly in the future will make me a more efficient songwriter even. Even the disadvantages of analog tape recording turn out to be a blessing. The limitations of track space makes you more decisive of where you want to go with a song and of what you absolutely need and what you can live without. Also the fact that you have to physically rewind the tape to get another take makes you want to be better prepared overall, otherwise you will lose a lot of precious time. And it sounds better.”
Another part of Bobby’s experience that intrigued me greatly was how one soul-searching trip to Seoul in 2011 was able to change his life; opening more doors for his music, but more importantly allowing him to find answers to personal questions about his own self-identity.
“Seoul is a great place but it's also a place that can eat you up and spit you out if you're not careful. Similar to New York City I believe. Specifically though, I love Seoul because it helped me close a gap in search for my own self-identity. Moving to Korea helped me understand my parents better and why they may have left this place in the 1960’s for the US. The single best thing that has happened to me in Korea is learning the language enough to be able to communicate with my mother in Korean. Before moving here I had never known things such as my parents had both been born in North Korea, their first date, in Manhattan they watched Dr. Zhivago and my dad left my mom there to go on another date, and that both my mom and dad had multiple siblings I never knew about that passed at an early age (a common thing amongst their generation apparently). Dad passed when I was 18. I'm glad my mom and I have been able to do some much-needed catch-up, albeit late. Seoul is a special place. I don't know if I'll be here forever but I'll always come back and often. I've met life long friends here.”
Big Phony’s words provoke an insightful perspective of Korea that delves past its K-pop-and-Kimchi exterior, weaving the country’s significance deep into the tapestry of his musical and personal history. Another prevailing theme which has shaped the singer-songwriter’s music is his past personal issues with self-confidence. He shares a few last words of advice with passionate amateur singer-songwriters afflicted with the same burden:
“Let go of any ego you have. It will get in your way. Surround yourself with intelligent and honest friends who will tell you frankly when you suck. The more difficulties you have in the beginning the better prepared you’ll be for the future. So don’t be afraid of failure. Chase it even. I learned this the hard way.“
As the weight of all Bobby’s words finally settle in my head, I am amazed at how his rhetoric is so admiringly heartfelt yet persuasive. Chatting with him has allowed me to understand why he has become such a critically acclaimed singer-songwriter, and so well-loved amongst his fans. The attraction lies both in the simple poetry of Choy’s words, and his honesty in sharing his personal experiences. So in a world where authenticity has become a marketing buzzword that has its meaning challenged every day, it is comforting to know that Big Phony’s music will always remain authentic in the true sense of the word; full of honesty and integrity.
Big Phony's self-titled album 'Big Phony' will release on the 30th of September on iTunes and Bandcamp, and will release everywhere else on October 3rd.
Welcome to Asian Pop Weekly's newest blog series called 'What's on my playlist' where some of our favourite artists share what's currently on their playlists, and a little about why they love each of the songs on it! I came up with this concept because I love knowing what's on my favourite artists playlists, as I feel it gives me a better sense of their tastes and personality, especially if you look hard enough. After all, the way to a musician's heart is through their music, no? Anyway, the first four posts in the series are already specially reserved for one of my favourite Japanese bands SEKAI NO OWARI, who will be touring the US very soon! Their band leader Nakajin will have the honours of revealing to us his playlist first. So without further ado, let's begin!
1. Kaskade-Disarm You ft. Ilsey (Grey Remix)
I really like Grey’s remixes so I’ve listened to all of his work. This is my most favorite of all. It features acoustic guitar sounds, and the riffs are really cool too. I even bought a new microphone because of it so I could record something like that!
I think they sound really unique and we can dance to it, and it’s stylish. Especially in this song he only uses fewer sounds and creates mysterious ambience with the synthesizer phrases. It’s addictive.
3. Ryuichi Sakamoto - Happy End
He’s always been my favorite instrumental artist but I was in awe of his latest work for the movie Revenant because of the soundscapes in his composition. I really like the soundtrack too, but this is the one I listen to the most right now. I was so into this song that I even learned to play it on piano, which I rarely do.
4. Xilent-Let Us Be
It feels really good when listening to his edgy sounds, and his ability to control the sound structures so precisely. My alarm is set to this sound. It does the work and wakes me up every morning, just by the intro part, because of the edgy sound! Haha!
5.Zedd & Aloe Blacc-Candyman
True Colors by Zedd was the album I listened to the most last year. This next song by him sounds innovative and is very interesting to me. The melody that Aloe Blacc sings is very beautiful I can’t help but start humming.
Listen to Nakajin's full playlist and a bonus SNO pick here:
Check out Nakajin's official Twitter andInstagram for more updates on his favourite music and more! SEKAI NO OWARI will be touring US this August, performing in Los Angeles at The Roxy Theatre (17 August) and in New York at The Bowery Ballroom (23 August). Be there or be square! Their hit single 'RPG' also just hit 100 million views on YouTube! Listen to it here.
Welcome back to the second post in our 'Whats on my playlist' blog series, this time shining a spotlight onto Fukase, SEKAI NO OWARI's lead vocalist and one of their creative muses.His music to me is reflective of his sensitive nature, and a throwback to his vibrant story. (See more about SEKAI NO OWARI's story here). So without further ado, let's allow Fukase's music sensitivities tell his story for him!
1. Sum 41-Fatlip
This reminds me of high school days.
2. Avril Lavigne-Anything But Ordinary
I was camping and listening to this song by the lakeside after calling my girlfriend.
3. Rancid-Fall Back Down
It cheered me up when I was discharged from the hospital and feeling really weak.
4.Millencolin-Home From Home
I really enjoyed listening to this song with my friends.
They played Summer Sonic in Japan. I would listen to Nofx all the time during the summer.
Listen to Fukase's full playlist and SNO's bonus pick here:
Check out Fukase's official Twitter andInstagram for more updates on his favourite music and daily routine! SEKAI NO OWARI will be touring US this August, performing in Los Angeles at The Roxy Theatre (17 August) and in New York at The Bowery Ballroom (23 August). Won't you check it out? SEKAI NO OWARI's hit single 'RPG' just hit 100 million views! Check it out here.
Have a look back on SEKAI NO OWARI's Nakajin's playlist here.
SEKAI NO OWARI's DJ Love's playlist here.
SEKAI NO OWARI's Saori's playlist here.
Welcome back to the third and second last part in our 'What's on my playlist' blog series featuring the awesome SEKAI NO OWARI! Today we've gotten SNO's lone wolf female member Saori to share with us what kind of songs are on her playlist. Some of the songs on there are very her.
Missed out on last week's posts? Check out SEKAI NO OWARI's Nakajin and DJ Love's top 5 playlist picks by clicking on their names! Stay tuned for the last part of the series featuring SEKAI NO OWARI lead vocalist Fukase that will be released this Sunday!
1. Sigur Ros-Hoppipolla
I would listen to this song when I was going through a tough time with the band.
I especially like the liberating vocals.
2.Swedish House Mafia-Resurrection
It’s my running song. It pumps me up!
I love how the music builds like classical music. It’s my dream to make music like this.
I really like the lyrics. I used to cry to this song during tough times.
I first heard this song on the radio. I keep this on repeat. I play it again and again.
It’s my “lift me up” song!
Listen to Saori's full playlist and a bonus SNO pick here:
Check out Saori's Twitter and Instagram for new updates on what's happening always! SEKAI NO OWARI will be touring US this August, performing in Los Angeles at The Roxy Theatre (17 August) and in New York at The Bowery Ballroom (23 August). Be there or be square! SEKAI NO OWARI's hit single 'RPG' just hit 100 million views on YouTube! Watch it here.
We've already come to the second part of our [What's on my playlist] blog series with SEKAI NO OWARI! Have you seen our last post on what's in Nakajin's playlist? (If not, do so here). But nevertheless, we now have SEKAI NO OWARI's DJ LOVE sharing with us five of his favourite songs. Enjoy!
A must for summer playlists!
2. Red Hot Chilli Peppers-The Getaway
I listened to this song while visiting LA. It’s perfect for late afternoons and evenings, while watching the sun set on Los Angeles.
3. Michael Jackson-Beat It
We would play Michael Jackson’s concert DVD back stage during our tour. It got me into Michael Jackson all over again!
Toe-The World According To
It’s beautiful, and makes me feel good. I listen to it a lot.
I just have to play this song when I’m in California!
Listen to DJ LOVE's full playlist and a bonus SNO pick here:
Follow DJ LOVE on his Instagram and Twitter for more musical updates! SEKAI NO OWARI will be touring US this August, performing in Los Angeles at The Roxy Theatre (17 August) and in New York at The Bowery Ballroom (23 August). See you there!
Also don't forget to stay tuned for Saori's "What's on my playlist" post coming soon!
SEKAI NO OWARI is a name that is mostly unheard of in the Western world. However, step foot into Japan, and what one will soon realise is that they are a J-Pop phenomenon and household name; much like Taylor Swift in the sphere of Western music. Coming together in 2007 and initially playing to no more than 15 people in an abandoned warehouse, the band which consists of Nakajin, Fukase, Saori and DJ Love officially debuted in 2010 and solidly accumulated in success before rising to meteoric fame with their hit single “RPG” in 2012, which has over 96 million hits on YouTube to date. Playing to sold-out venues such as the legendary Nippon Budokan and Nissan Stadium, and with more than a couple chart-topping singles and awards under their belt, the band is well-equipped for their upcoming debut into the US music industry. However, the funky and eclectic indie-pop band didn’t exactly breeze their way out of obscurity to become one of the most popular bands in Japan. Theirs is a story of tumultuous times, new beginnings and self discovery, showing us that their happiness and success was anything but easy.
In speaking with us, the band were open about what went on behind the scenes in their personal lives. Lead vocalist and songwriter Fukase especially spoke candidly of his experiences with mental illness which ended his budding career in medicine, initiating what was to be the darkest period of his life. Yet it was this exact feeling of the world collapsing around him that inspired the band’s name SEKAI NO OWARI, meaning ‘End of the World’ which kick-started a musical journey fuelled by the desire to share a message of love and positivity. When asked why he dared to share so boldly his painful journey of internal struggle, Fukase had this to say: “I want to help guide the way for those young minds who are under similar circumstances as mine; so they don’t lose their way, or lose confidence in themselves.”
Furthermore, the youthful vocalist also had some immensely meaningful words of wisdom for those who are currently struggling with a low point in their lives: “Dreaming about tomorrow won’t make any difference for the present moment. Relying on someone else won’t help but we can only change ourselves. I know you all know that very well. Be strong, my comrades.”
Evidently, it has been Fukase’s optimism as well as the love and support that he felt from his band members during this tough period which has shaped the messages that their happy and powerful lyrics bring. However, their music itself is known for being a unique fusion of classical, video game, rock and hip hop genres. Nakajin, SEKAI NO OWARI’s band leader lets us in on the difficulties that led them to their nonreplicable sound:
“It was just two of us in the beginning, Fukase as a lead vocal and I played guitar. We were looking for a drummer and bassist but couldn’t find people we clicked with. We knew we needed more members to form the group, so we talked to our friend Saori who plays piano and Love the DJ, and asked them to join us. This is how we started unintentionally with these members. It is an odd and unusual combination, but we created something outside the box because of it.”
SEKAI NO OWARI-RPG
Furthermore, it is not just the fact that the band was composed of different instruments that made them stand out from the crowd, but also their inimitable chemistry which seems to be the glue piecing their varied interests into one cohesive sound.
“We all have different taste in music; Fukase likes hiphop, Saori likes classical music, LOVE likes rock, and I like video game music. But we understand each other really well because we are childhood friends and currently living together in the shared house. When there’s a conflict between us, we overcome the issues by talking it out with respect for each other“, Nakajin says.
Indeed, the group’s mutual respect and love for one another is what helps them through various conflicts, with every member regarding each other as family. Saori is seen to be the selfish older sister, Nakajin the reliable older brother, Fukase the carefree dad, and DJ Love…the pet elephant? In clarification of DJ Love’s interesting role in the SEKAI NO OWARI family, Saori kept her explanation short, sweet and simple: “Because he is gentle, big, and he likes to eat.”
The band are so close, that even when I posed to them the usual ‘stranded on a desert island with one person’ hypothetical, they all replied that they couldn’t pick just one! When asked what their motivation for entering the US Market and sharing their music with the world was, Fukase’s answer was quite very adorable: “Our motivation was for us to travel the world together”.
And it seems that SEKAI NO OWARI’s dream will be coming true soon enough. The band has already taken the first step by initiating cross-cultural collaborations with electro-pop great Owl City. Nakajin, who is a big fan of the former shares with us how it all went down: “My manager knew that I was a fan of Owl City since his debut, so he made an initial contact to get in touch, and that’s how we started to work on our collaboration. Mr.Heartache was produced by Owl City, and we featured in his song ‘TOKYO’. He also joined us at our show in Japan in 2014”.
SEKAI NO OWARI-MR HEARTACHE
So with the backing of an established Western talent like Owl City, all that’s left is for SEKAI NO OWARI to publish some new works to showcase to Western audiences before they can begin touring and sharing their music with an entirely different audience. Nakajin shares how he feels about such foreign experiences, especially in terms of writing and composing in English:
“When working on songs in English, I try to think of myself as someone from an English speaking country. It’s a totally a different feeling than working on Japanese songs. It’s really refreshing and exciting at the same time. It’s like we are in a different band.”
DJ Love also chimed in with his thoughts on cultural obstacles, addressing the importance of spoken language to a listener’s acceptance of the music.
“I believe language is very important for a song to be loved for many years. There are rare cases when people feel connected to a song regardless of the language too. But I think there is barrier when reaching out to more people, it’s more difficult to have them engaged with music if they don’t understand the words.”
Nearing the end of the interview, Saori also had some thoughts about the band’s ultimate aim in making music which we felt represented what the band stood for without contention: “I would be happy if our music inspired people to share special moments. That’s why we want families to come to our concert. It’s the idea of people listening to our songs with their loved ones, and people making new friends. “
Encompassing a feeling of warmth and happiness that one feels when with friends or family, the overpowering, naive happiness that SEKAI NO OWARI’s music’s promotes is not one that was decided upon flippantly. It comes from a potent mix of troubled times, the healing support of loved ones, a unique amalgation of creative energies and a hell of a lot of fighting spirit. Whether it was fate or coincidence that brought the four of them together, SEKAI NO OWARI has now made it their mission to share their brand of hard-fought happiness with anyone who is willing to listen; even if it feels like the world’s about to collapse tomorrow. So in lieu of their upcoming debut into the US music industry, my advice is to give these guys a listen-chances are, you’ll be hooked on their addictive brand of happiness 30 seconds into the first song. I promise.
SEKAI NO OWARI are currently in the process of planning a North American tour and debut into the US music industry. Keep in the loop by following their Facebook page here.
A couple of years ago, I chanced upon aspiring DJ and Producer Eugene Luu, who was just starting to make a name for himself by fusing Chinese Pop with EDM music. After reconnecting with him, it's nice to see that he's done well for himself, rising up the ranks to become an international DJ who has played events all over the world including his native San Jose, as well as music festivals in China and Malaysia. It is even more heartening to see that he has continued to fuse EDM with Chinese Pop in ways that others rarely attempt, creating sleek remixes that are relatable and showcase his Chinese heritage. We chatted with the DJ/Producer to find out a little more about his music, and about what he's been up to these past few years.
1.Since we last talked, you've become an international DJ/Producer! Can you tell us about some of the opportunities you've had which allowed you to come this far?
Its all about the connections and what makes you stand out. I made my international debut in June at one of Malaysia’s top nightclub and was invited by Asia’s No. 1 DJ Jamaster A to perform at the 2015 Bougainvillea Music Festival.
2. Your music seems to consist of a fusion of EDM and Chinese pop music. What initially led you to focus on Chinese music as a starting point?
I grew up listening to Chinese music and I hold a strong appreciation for it. From the most traditional to pop, I have always had a strong background. I’ve failed numerous times when I began making music domestically and from there, I realized that by infusing what I loved with what is appealing can greatly innovate and revolutionize Chinese music.
3. What kinds of responses have you had from listeners of your style?
I would say mixed, primarily more positive reactions outweighing the negatives. My fan base grew consistently, something that never happened before I focused on Chinese EDM.
4.It's great to see you attempting to bridge cultural gaps with your music.You mainly perform around Asia at the moment, do you have any plans to bring your Chinese pop-infused EDM style to Western settings?
I perform here in San Francisco and sometimes my hometown San Jose. I am affiliated with Soul Krush Entertainment, a nightlife organizer catering to Asian-Americans in the Bay Area. In my sets here, depending on the crowd, I only play one or two tracks that are Chinese-infused EDM.
5. You've travelled to many places and collaborated with quite a few known DJs and artists, such as Taiwanese rapper Dwagie. How did you get to meet him, and what was it like working with him?
Haha, for the record I actually did not collaborate with him however, we did have some talks regarding that matter. He made his Bay Area debut at Pure Lounge, a reputable club in Sunnyvale and I was invited by the organizer to perform with him. I personally did not hang out with him enough to determine how he is but from what I have observed when talking to him, he was a very chill person.
The sisters of Meimeiwawa Multimedia
“The Taiwanese music and film industries are very competitive. You have a large number of artists competing for very little income on a small island. Resources are scarce and the population of Taiwan is not large enough for niche markets. If you want to be successful, you need the entire country to know who you are. Add up all those factors and you have an extremely tough and competitive environment.”
Setting the seemingly bleak scene for us is Esther Veronin, CEO of multimedia company Meimeiwawa Multimedia which she set up with sister/pop Lara Veronin in 2013. With extensive experience in the music and entertainment industry, both sisters aim to create a label that according to Lara is “Cosmopolitan, feminine, & artistic on the outside and creative, evocative, & interactive on the inside”.
As a company that wears many hats including film production, entertainment management, lifestyle content and music production, they are intimately tapped into the ongoings of an industry caught in the constant dilemma of balancing commercialisation and creativity.
Meimeiwawa co-creator and singer-songwriter Lara Veronin
However, the two sisters have nevertheless strived to differentiate themselves and have their voice heard in Taiwan’s competitive creative industries by taking a feminine and bilingual approach to their content; with Lara referring to themselves as a “matchmaker of sorts whose goal is to seamlessly blend the best of both worlds”. One such way they’ve achieved this is by creating content with an international focus:
“I think our international/global perspective and bilingualism definitely stands out among most Taiwanese entertainment companies here. Despite the fact that Taiwan has made many large advancements in the last 2 decades, it’s still rather Mandarin-centric in terms of ideas and language” says Esther.
The point which Esther puts forth is indeed an important one. Seeing as the creative industries have been one of the Taiwanese government’s main priorities, more needs to be done to push Taiwan’s creative output more resolutely onto a global platform, potentially through the breaking of language barriers.
From observation, Esther states that governmental efforts have made little impact on the creative scene. “Despite the money being poured into the creative industries, I don’t see a shift towards globalization/ internationalization for music and film here in Taiwan (at least in terms of mainstream stuff.)”
Meimeiwawa CEO Esther Veronin
Government resources are one thing, but where those resources are allocated is yet another issue to be considered. Lara adds:
“I feel like yes, there is more government money being put into entertainment (possibly following South Korea's lead), but the people that are receiving financial grants are not necessarily the ones with the most innovative ideas or even need the money most, they just have the right kinds of proposals that will get approved.”
Focusing on Taiwan’s pop music industry which back in its heyday used to be the Hollywood of Asian music, it has sadly seen audiences trickling away fast due to the booming K-pop music scene. So what exactly is causing audiences to lose interest? Well as they say, content is king. Esther speaks to us about how large record companies tend to affect the content of Taiwanese music.
“I think that music that is put out by a large company tends to be much “safer” because they are very careful about their investments. As with most “safe” bets, creativity and novelty suffer. Technically speaking the music is of superior recording quality—better recording, better mastering, etc., but as for whether it’s superior artistically? I would think not. Add the collectivist and conservative Taiwanese culture on top of that and you get music that is very conformist.”
However, it’s not all bad news. Although the large conglomerates still hold stead in the industry, independent companies such as Meimeiwawa are slowly gathering speed with the help of rapid advancements in technology.
“Technology has actually drastically empowered smaller independent companies. Viral potential achieved through savvy marketing evens the playing ground and enables the best ideas to be seen. I myself was once signed to a major label and am now happily building my own startup with Esther” asserts Lara.
Lara－Dida滴答 (Produced by Meimeiwawa)
Lara is also optimistic about the impact of technology on the music scene. “I think music in Taipei is diversifying more than ever because Internet sensations have made it possible for obscure artists to gain followings and thus influence major labels to invest in less "typically mainstream" artists. On that same sentiment, music on a global whole has become more cohesive than before due to easy access to music from other countries.”
In other words, the coalescing of creative energy (independent artists and musicians) with the right amount of resources (government funding and the support of large record companies) is exactly what is needed to elevate the industry to a more global standard. Add to this an understanding of how to promote their creative offerings to an international market, and Taiwan might just be set to take on the big leagues in terms of creative success.
As Lara and Esther have shown, there’s still a long way to go before all the factors of the equation add up. However by persisting with their unique brand of creative energy and catering to an international market, the girls of Meimeiwawa are certainly doing their bit to advance the artistic success of Taiwan’s creative industries, taking it to much greater heights than many have ever imagined.
Find out more about the girls on their Website, Facebook or Instagram!
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