By Jocelle Koh
Welcome back to part 2 of our music blog series about Chinese music! In the first part, I share with you guys why it has become such an important part of my life and why I love it so. Now, I'm going to share with you why YOU should love Chinese music.
Even as of late, the Chinese music industry (especially the Taiwanese industry) has been in a bit of a downturn for me. Its' become harder to find great music, and I'm starting to see a lot more blurred lines, with songs in between good and bad-perhaps having some interesting ideas but not being able to follow through and really expand on the work in such a way where it becomes a beautiful piece of artwork. So definitely there are many things the industry could work on, especially in terms of organisation and quality control-from what I hear it can be quite a messy industry, with people using their hearts over their heads to make important decisions.
But then that started me wondering why I love Chinese music so much, which spurred me to write part 1 of this series. And an afterthought to that was: Sentimentality and personal roots aside, why do I constantly strive to promote Chinese music to the world? Why should YOU, as listeners love Chinese music? So that, my friends was how this two-part series came together. After thinking about this question for the LONGEST time, I think I've finally came up with an answer.
1. It has no-holds-barred freedom in speech
Although this advantage is a double-edged sword which could attribute for quality control problems this industry (and actually the entire of Taiwan) has been having, if its used in the right way, it could potentially be a very powerful mechanism for creating a sound that is unique only to Taiwan.
Taiwan actually has the freest media industry in the entirety of Asia. In other words, it has the most means afforded to them to express a sound that is most representative of their identity. While places like Singapore and China repress their citizen's means of creative expression, Taiwanese music is able to breathe life into every aspect of Taiwanese identity by providing outlooks not only on daily situations such as love and daily life, but also criticising certain points of Taiwan identity. A great example of this is Jolin Tsai's recent single <呸Play> which was a criticism of one aspect of the Taiwanese identity; in that they confine themselves to categories with a noncritical sense of direction.
Another example of this is Chris Liao's entire latest album which explores the psyche of young Taiwanese teenagers in a way that shines a light on the neglect the Taiwanese government has shown towards mental disorders.
2. It takes indie music to a whole new level
Kind of following on from the previous point, because they have pretty much no restrictions on anything they say or write, Taiwan's indie music scene especially is chock-full of new ideas and sounds. And because of this, Taiwanese audiences are thus also more receptive to new sounds, be they indie or mainstream. In the past we've seen indie acts like Sodagreen and Cheer Chen make it to international pop star status, despite their persistence in a more alternative, independent sound.
In this case I believe blurred lines between genres are an advantage in the taiwanese music scene (however it is present in many other music scenes too). As long as you're putting good music out, people will continue to support it and make it an even bigger movement.
3. They've got heart
Host/actress Janet Hsieh once said Taiwan is not special because of its mountains, its rivers or its scenery. Although it may be beautiful, there are most certainly bigger mountains, longer rivers and more beautiful scenery to be found elsewhere. But what continues to draw visitors back to Taiwan again and again, is the people that you will meet here. And I believe that this extends to the nature of its music industry too.
Although the music here may not be the best in the world, you can't fault the heart and the effort that has been put into it. Most people make their music with the best intention, no matter whether they are right in doing so or not. It's hard to exactly pinpoint what it is, but whenever I listen to Taiwanese music, it makes me feel truly at home, and at ease. Because the people who are making it, like most Taiwanese are amiable, relatable and always always try their best.
And if that's not something to appreciate about Taiwanese music, I don't know what is.
Praying for the people who have been so gravely injured in the Taiwan waterpark explosion. But even more pertinently we must be thinking about WHY this would only happen in Taiwan. There are color runs all around the world, music festivals staged everywhere. Why is Taiwan the only place where this has happened? Yes, people are suffering and we should pray for them and do what we can. But that doesn’t mean we should forget the crux of the situation. This event should shine a light on quality control at such amusement parks in Taiwan, and I hope that people will not think only about the grief and pain the situation is causing, but to also use a logical approach to fight for the truth . Because without the truth, who’s to say this won’t happen again and again and again? We need answers; and I have seen absolutely none given other than preliminary reports so far. All the Taiwanese media is providing us with is the fatalities, their back stories and basically trying to make money off the tail end of the situation. And people just seem to be buying it hook, line and sinker.
We should not be invading upon others’ privacy when they are in such pain, and in such stages of tragedy. That is the absolute worse thing that any journalist can do. Shining a spotlight on the most painful periods of an individuals’ life all for the sake of making a quick buck. And on top of that, I don’t see any pressing of further inquiries into the situation at all.
Grief is grief, but let’s not cry over split milk. We need to see some real change in place so this kind of situation will never happen again.
Being in a country (or countries) that no longer seem to appreciate the beauty of Chinese music, I am constantly faced with this question from others: Why do you love Chinese music? And until recently, I really didn't have a real answer for them as to why I loved it so much. Because I didn't know myself! But now I think I do have a little inkling of why I have persevered in sharing it with others all these years. Part two of our <Digging Deep> series will instead feature my thoughts on why YOU should be following the Chinese music industry, so stay tuned for that too!
First of all, the reason why I love Chinese music is probably because I'm a pretty sentimental person and it does contain a lot of sentimental value for me. Each song I listen to and even the process of receiving each album documents a stage of my life, or just tiny little moments that I will treasure forever. And it can be the little things or huge events. For example, A-Lin's <Happiness then what> reminds me of one of the first times I was listening to the song and walking to the bus stop on my way to Uni. The air was crisp and cold, but the song instead warmed my heart, making that moment so much more memorable for me.
And another example would be how Freya Lin's <Obviously Love You> and her entire <Knife of time> album which accompanied me as I walked through the streets of Tianmu in Taipei for the first and last time, breathing in the sights and smells of a beautiful place surrounded by friends and also by one of my favourite artists. (This was the day I had lunch with Esther and Lara after winning the TAWKI competition!) It reminds me of a feeling of happiness and absolute exuberance that cannot be replicated in my daily life; however every time I listen to her songs, it reminds me of the fun times I had back then.
Of course in general Chinese music doesn't only document my life, as any kind of music could document your life if you wanted it to. But the fact is that Chinese music has been there for me through the good and the bad, in times of loneliness and sadness it was my only companion. In times of happiness it was by my side celebrating with me. It keeps my spirits up and has made me the optimistic person I am today. And that's why I'm such an 'obsessive fan' as some might say. To me, my favourite artists are not my favourite because they're pretty or handsome; it's because I feel like through their music I know them and am friends with them. I'm grateful to them for their music which has constantly accompanied me; more so than any friend ever could, and so in return I wish to share their music and how it has moved me with the rest of the world. In my opinion, Chinese music has one thing that I find is sometimes missing especially in the K-pop and Western industries. It has heart, and I want to share that big ol' heart with the entire world.
Some people assume that I love Chinese music because I love the Chinese language when in fact it was the music that led me to pursue the language so relentlessly. I want to understand the industry thoroughly, and in order to do that, it has given me the motivation to constantly want to learn more about this beautiful language, and also about how people write lyrics and to appreciate the beauty and flow of Chinese lyrics. I was always a wordy person from young, but never really a Chinese person. I was English-educated, and I spoke in English almost entirely. It was only when I came back to Singapore at age 12 and couldn't speak a word of Chinese that I knew I had to do something. Actually, come to think of it, I never really was a music person before the age of 12, but I had always thought music was the coolest thing in the world and wanted somehow to get my foot into it.
So my motivation to learn Chinese came from one simple idea: I'm Chinese, so why can't I speak it fluently? And indeed, the founding father of Singapore once said something along the lines of 'Chinese is not a language you will need to use in your daily lives, but if you don't learn it, you will regret it for an entire lifetime. Because those are your roots.' And true to his word, he learned Chinese until the day he passed away. I've always had this idea, and felt almost ashamed that I couldn't speak the language my aunties and grandparents spoke. Being Chinese yet not being able to speak the language means that in a way; you've lost your roots. Sure, you may create a new identity as an ABC but in order to truly understand yourself and where you've come from, I feel that languages was the key, and in that case, it meant learning Chinese.
So my passions for Chinese and music came together quite simultaneously, but I do think undoubtedly my passion for music has outshone that for Chinese. They are quite immiscible in my opinion though; in order to completely understand music, you must have a good grasp of the language no matter what music you're interested in.
So that's my story about why I love Chinese music so much! Want to know why YOU should love Chinese music? Stay tuned!
Resolutions are a tricky thing. You don't want to have too few, but you also don't want to have too many. It's all about finding the perfect balance, and also actually having the resolve to conquer them! I mildly remember having made a resolution to drink more water in the year 2014, but I literally had forgotten all about it by February 2014, and have only remembered it now as this year's resolution. But I think I've figured out a theme for my resolutions that will help it to stick a lot better.
This year, my resolutions will revolve around there being infinite possibilities, and a viewpoint of myself as having no restrictions. To be the best person you can be, you have to find your boundaries but I think I've sold myself a little short in the last few years. Time to rediscover myself! So to reiterate, this means less sleeping in (I think I do have more energy than I always think I do), drinking more water (who doesn't have time to drink water?!), and most importantly, to always, always move forward. I once heard someone say that if they improve just 1% everyday, sooner or later they'll get there. And it's true. The greatest achievements come from a series of small steps. Just take it easy, take it slow and always, always believe that you can achieve it (even if you don't exactly know what 'it' is yet.
As for me and Chinese music, definitely as I started out I never thought in a million years that I would be so involved with it like I am today. It was just something I loved, and nurtured. Before I even knew it, I had gotten so deep into it that it just snowballed into something bigger and bigger. I love what I'm doing now, but I'm always striving to better myself as much as possible. To be able to make a difference, and to help people using the gifts that I've nurtured. Maybe in another life, I would've been a doctor, a teacher even. But in this life, I'm so happy to be where I am now. The road ahead is long, but lets hope it leads me to even more spectacular views.
2014 has been the best year of my life so far, but infinite possibilities means that I can possibly use my perseverance and hard work to make 2015 an even better year.
I'll leave you all with a song that's been a subtle favourite of mine in 2014; helping me through the good times and the bad. Tanya Chua's <Keep Breathing> has a pace as steady as a heartbeat, little flutters of elements that when interwoven throughout the song create a slow, steady feeling of moving forward, but yet does so with a sense of calm that is in part to do with Tanya's warm vocals.
What are some of your resolutions for 2015? Feel free to share them with me, and I truly hope that you all have a wonderful 2015 too!
When I went to Taiwan, it was kind of like a free pass for me to do whatever the hell I wanted. I was alone in a foreign country; no friends, no family; nothing to hold you back. So of course as I started to make more friends, late night dinners, karaoke-ing, midnight runs and bike rides (that I always protested at) became a constant in my life. No curfews and living by myself meant that I basically had a free pass to make myself happy; with no obligations to compromise with family members on certain issues, or trying to wrangle a few hours of talking time from friends who seemed to be eternally busy with their own lives.
I thought to myself, you know, why not? You're probably never going experience this kind of freedom ever again in your life, so you might as well make the most of it while you can. And so for the first time in my life, I gave myself permission to put myself first. I've always felt it was my obligation to put others before myself; to me it just seemed like the moral and right thing to do. I always thought, it's not like I can't afford to give in to these people so I might as well. But giving in soon turned into being taken advantage of, and the relaxed attitude that I had towards the situation at hand had turned into a kind of resignation to my fate as the one who always had the short end of the straw. But what I realised somewhere along the way was that in order to extend the greatest kindness and love to others; you must first encourage it within yourself.
And it's not like I hadn't heard this line before, I just thought that it was a whole bunch of bullcrap in the midst of my busy life. But as time wasting as it might sound, making yourself happy is actually the most productive thing you could do both for yourself, and for others around you. When I came back from Taipei, I'm pretty sure I did all my chores for six months without even complaining ONCE. Okay maybe a couple of times… But I consciously put in the effort to make things easier for everyone by pulling my weight AND by not complaining about it. The not-as-happy me would definitely not have enough energy or wisdom to not complain about the chores despite any conflicts that might arise. It might sound like just a small thing, but it's a really big deal to me.
My friends who have come back from taiwan and enjoyed it as much as me have also told me the same thing; their grades have gone up because they're so much happier than they were before! So at any chance you get, I hope you can take some time out of your daily schedule to concentrate on things that you love to do. Because your happiness should be as important to you as everyone else's. Business is addictive; everyone's trying to get somewhere in this big world of opportunities. But what they didn't tell you is that being able to set time apart from others just for yourself is a real skill. It's one that I haven't mastered yet, but I hope that you have, or are on your way to mastering it too! Trust me, it's all for the best.
I'd like to share with you a happy happy song, coincidentally of the same name of this post, <As long as you're happy> by Chen Si Han featuring Penny Dai. Enjoy!
Hey guys, and welcome back for the final instalment of this series! Writing it all down makes me feel much happier about everything, and I hope that perhaps you've gained something from it too! If not, listening to some great music is always good too! Drop us a comment below if you're feeling up to it :)
-INFINITE POSSIBILITIES 13.11.14
-WHAT'S NEXT 17.11.14
-A SECRET HOLLOW 19.11.14
Listen to the playlist Here.
A SECRET HOLLOW
I miss Taipei so much that it's not even funny. Thinking about all the opportunities that I've missed by not being there really makes me sad, but knowing that I'll be back there again someday does make me feel better. Many people live in foreign countries for a good deal of their life, because of business, because of university, or due to many other factors. They rent houses, get gym memberships, visit the local supermarket and make friends. But after it's time to leave, many of them don't return for years, or decades even. Although they've built their relationships, spent time to understand their surroundings and made themselves comfortable; for these people that place isn't home for them. Many of my friends that I met in Taipei (international and exchange students) are already missing home, wanting to go back and probably won't visit again for a while. But even though I never even got around to fully unpacking my luggage the entire time I was in Taipei, the place is nevertheless already like another home to me. Living in between Singapore and Australia for so long, you kind of feel like you have to pick a side; which one is better than the other. But one day I realised that I wasn't-or wouldn't have been happy living the rest of my life in either, any way that I imagined it. And then I thought; what about Taipei? Honestly, everyone thought I was a little bit insane (most of all my own mother), telling me that this experience would not be all that I expected it to be. But I had already gotten enough of a taste, and also had a very strong sixth sense that this was the right place for me to be in. I feel so at home in Taiwan's settings, taking in its sights, smells and sounds I feel like they're already ingrained in me, a part of me. So although no one knows what's going to happen in the future, I do know one thing for certain-Taiwan will always have a place in my heart, and it reassures me to know that it will always be there, waiting for me when I need it most.
Just like Lala hsu's <树洞的声音>(Sound of tree hollows), Taipei is the place where I leave all my secrets, fears, hopes and dreams.So I'll be back someday to pick them up, just you wait and see!
Hey everyone, welcome back once again to the third edition of our Thoughts of Taipei blog series! Hope you're enjoying it so far! I know I enjoyed writing it! just like Ann's song which denotes a sense of freedom, adventure and the unexpected, many don't know what's lying ahead, but either way it's best to take a little time to think and reflect before heading off into the unknown! Don't forget to check out our final instalment, A Secret Hollow to be released on the 19th!
-INFINITE POSSIBILITIES 13.11.14
-WHAT'S NEXT 17.11.14
-A SECRET HOLLOW 19.11.14
Just to let you guys know as a disclaimer-this is most definitely NOT what every exchange experience is like. Looking at some of the people around me and at the experiences that they've had, sure they've had fun, but it may not have been as life-changing an experience or just as enjoyable as mine was. However to me, this wasn't just any exchange to another country; it was a chance for me to fulfil my hopes and dreams; and lesser known to me until now, it was also a stepping stone for me to keep on dreaming and finding opportunities to understand myself and my vocation a little better. So what I'm trying to say is, make your decisions with care. If you have a choice in the matter, make it carefully, because location really does matter. I've known some people who've made the wrong decision for themselves and ended up complaining the entire time during their trip because instead of the gleaming metropolitan area they assumed they'd end up in, they were left in a smaller countryside town which totally didn't match their expectations. So before you make decisions, consider carefully where you want to go and why you want to go there. If you truly follow the path that your dreams lead you onto, no matter how many mistakes you make before getting there, it'll all be worth it in the end. Just as Ann says in her song <接下来是什么>(what's next), take time to think and process information before making decisions. The more time you take to consider the alternatives, the more sure you will be of your decision when the time comes to make it. And I guarantee you,the happier you'll be with it in the end.*
*I should know, it took me two-three years to decide that going to Taipei was what I really wanted to do. I considered other alternatives in the process due to the obstacles in my way, but I'm glad I made the right decision this time!
Welcome back to the second part of our Thoughts of Taipei series. Just as Hebe's song <热情>(Passion) suggests, I believe that you should always continue moving forward, never giving up. The optimism and energy of this song gets me every time, and perfectly echoes my thoughts of this idea of Passion. Don't forget to stay tuned for more of our Blog series! Two more to go!
-INFINITE POSSIBILITIES 13.11.14
-WHAT'S NEXT 17.11.14
-A SECRET HOLLOW 19.11.14
Also check out our awesome playlist here:
But it's safe to say, this hasn't been just any old exchange experience. This trip has absolutely surpassed any previous expectations I had for the trip and for myself-never would I in a million years have thought that I would have the courage to do some of the things I did, the persistence to do others, and on top of it all, the passion to pull it all off. I think before it was in there somewhere, just growing and growing, but tunnelling deeper and deeper inside me without actually showing itself. No one I knew really had an interest in Chinese music, nor in sharing it with me, so for a really long time I just thought that keeping it to myself and doing things independently would be the best way for me. But in meeting people who were getting to know me and I them for the very first time, it was a great opportunity to bounce ideas of them in order to understand both them and myself better. Honestly, when I was in the midst of it all, I didn't give it much thought as I was too caught up in every moment to reflect on all of it. But a few days ago I was just reading through a few cards and letters that my friends had sent me before they left/or I left Taipei. And I suddenly realised that they all had one thing in common-noting my passion for music. I had never really considered myself as passionate about my music before as no one had ever called me that before. The most I'd ever gotten was 'crazy', 'obsessed', 'fangirl' and 'addicted', names which I've always hated and didn't wish to be associated with. However people continued calling me that anyway, and I just let them because hey, what are you going to do about it right? There was no way I would be able to easily explain to these people who knew nothing about the Chinese music industry, and really, although being friends and acquaintances for years, knew nothing about me what cognitions were going on in my brain, the depth to which I understand things, and how much effort I've put into all of this. And honestly, I was probably very close to the point of accepting these terms as all I was really set out to be. Until I met the wonderful people that I did in Taiwan! Some understood my music, others didn't so much-but what they all gave me was a listening ear-which was all I wanted all along. So when I read their messages or thought back to the things that they've said to me in the past, I was really touched about how much these people appreciated not my obsession, but my passion for music, and how in some way or another, had felt proud to have me as a friend, felt proud of my accomplishments and of me as an individual.
Hey guys, I'm back again! Although my 139 days in Taiwan are unfortunately over, don't think that this blog's dead just yet! I'll continue posting bits and bobs from my trip, musical events that I've attended while I was there, as well as any information about Taipei which I find useful for any music lovers visiting. But it'll also be a space for me to continue reflecting on my experience in Taipei.
I really can't believe that it's been four months since I left Taipei, but what's even more surreal to me is the fact that I had such a wonderful experience while I was there. I often find myself wondering 'Was it all a dream?', 'Did it Really happen?'. Up until now I'm still processing every single memory, every single experience and every single moment that was generated during my time there, and each time, it's come up with something new for me. I've organised my thoughts into a blog series; this time with each song comes a segment of my story, hope that they can inspire you too! I feel that the four songs really interweave seamlessly into each other; with messages which complement my thoughts perfectly too! Stay tuned for the release of each post, and feel free to leave your comments down below!
-INFINITE POSSIBILITIES 13.11.14
-WHAT'S NEXT 17.11.14
-A SECRET HOLLOW 19.11.14
Check out the playlist for all four songs here.
Definitely, I'm happy to report back that life has changed for me since I left Taipei. I was worried at first that I'd just go back to my normal life, get back into old routines and slowly start to lose passion and enthusiasm, two elements that I've gained back after my time in Taipei. But as time passed, I realised that instead of losing steam along the way, the hope, the enthusiasm and the optimism that I had found once again has never let me down. I've finally found a pathway which I really am interested in, am taking a healthier approach to living, and devoting more time towards cultivating my musical and creative interests. I've always wondered where this strange motivation and inspiration has been coming from-and I've only just realised that its been the experiences I've had that have kept me going all along. Several times a day, no matter how busy I am, or how stressed I am, I find myself smiling or laughing to myself because I just remembered a situation or experience that happened while I was in Taiwan that made me happy. And I know there's all these tests and studies showing that smiling just improve your mood, and really, it does. But I've never before found any reason really to just stand there, grinning stupidly like a fool-until now. So when you see those silly optimism posters that say "Just keep smiling"; I say don't just clench your teeth, part your lips, and give me a half-hearted grimace that looks like the Joker just killed Batman-find something that is actually going to make you happy, and give you motivation to smile, even by just thinking about it. It doesn't have to be something big like going on exchange of course, planning a future holiday, or thinking about all the opportunities that lie ahead of you is a great way to get yourself smiling and helping you maintain a positive outlook on life. Because when you have a smile on your face, the possibilities are endless.
I just wrote a long-ass post which just got deleted, so I'm gonna keep it short and sweet this time around:
7-11 events are held pretty often such as the MP Magic Power one I went to, especially because it's such a big venue in taiwan, especially the one I went to in Gongguan. So do keep an eye out for these kinds of activities. But because of the place where these activities are situated, it could get crowded, and also you might want to anticipate a less music filled event. Basically they usually just set up the tents and the basic amp equipment, and don't really have the capacity to hold a full-staged performance of any kind. So needless to say, I wasn't able to see them perform at all, and was instead waiting for about three hours to see them and get their autographs (which I had to buy three bottles of coke to get).
I'd understand if you were a big fan of someone, but just take this into account before participating in an even of this kind!
It's been my dream since I started getting to know more about Chinese music to be able to live in Taipei, and now I'm finally going to be able to! Starting from the 11th of February, I will be staying in Taipei for 139 days and hope to share parts of my experiences that may be helpful with readers everywhere! This may include upcoming events in Taipei, concert reviews, and just titbits on life in Taipei in general. (Feb 2014)