2011 / 11月
晚間，2009年勇奪「JPF Music Award」國際大獎的「拷秋勤」上台，結合嗩吶、鑼、鈸等傳統樂器，混雜國台客等多種語言的多元折衷主義曲風，這種結合傳統歌謠與前衛搖滾的敘事體系，更牽引著香港樂迷的情緒。台式搖滾經典團體「董事長」的登場，則讓氣氛引爆到最高點，四位團員以國劇臉譜般的野性視覺裝扮現身，尖叫聲響徹夜空。
Eric Lin /photos courtesy of Vic Shing /tr. by Geoff Hegarty and Sophia Chen
In mid-September 2011, 19 of Taiwan's top rock bands flew to Hong Kong to perform in the first "Taiwan Calling" music festival. The fans loved it: Gauged by the amount of roaring and screaming, the enthusiasm generated was almost equivalent to that of Taiwan's Spring Scream Festival in Kending.
Hong Kong fans attending the festival witnessed not only the diversity and high degree of musicianship offered by Taiwanese bands, but also the blossoming of Taiwan's independent music scene. The spirit of dynamic innovation behind the festival is precisely what drives this part of Taiwan's music industry.
In the early morning hours of September 16, the departure hall at Taoyuan International Airport was jam-packed. Nineteen Taiwanese bands, including Kou Chou Ching, the Chairman, and We Save Strawberries, were taking the trip to Hong Kong with their nearly 200 pieces of equipment.
Surprisingly, this major musical event wasn't the result of planning from a major record company, but simply due to the enthusiasm of two young musicians (both under 30), Han Likang from Taiwan and Oliver from Hong Kong. With their entrepreneurial attitudes and passion for the spirit of independent music, they have achieved amazing results with limited manpower.
Han Likang is guitarist with the Taiwanese band Coconuts, and Oliver is lead vocalist in the Hong Kong band The Hunger Artist. In early 2011, they set up a company called Black Market Music Production, hoping to create a platform to launch independent bands from Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China. The company's debut release, Black Music Compilations 2011, includes 30 bands from Taiwan and Hong Kong each contributing one song.
"I was amazed at the enthusiasm shown when I was collecting the latest material from participating bands, so we decided to go one step further and put on a music festival in Hong Kong," says Oliver. Although Hong Kong is known as the hub of the Chinese entertainment industry, its creative forces generally offer little support for independent bands. They really have only two choices: either get a contract with an independent European label and produce only English-language material, or remain amateurs and make music just for the fun of it.
The situation in Taiwan is different, however, because independent music doesn't need commercial support. Annual rock music events such as Spring Scream, the Formoz Festival and the Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival have all attracted huge audiences. And opportunities for bands to show their stuff are multiplying: the independent music scene is flourishing, a growth that those concerned hope can be extended into Hong Kong.
On Saturday, Hong Kong's Kowloon Bay International Trade and Exhibition Center was the scene of great excitement. A music festival was getting underway. Penguin Bear Likes to Eat Chicken Ball, its members comprising a woman and three men, opened events with purely instrumental music with a taste of British rock. From the calm opening notes of a song to its more spirited final chords, the waves of the music carried the audience on a roller coaster of emotion, showing what can be achieved without a lead vocalist screaming his/her head off.
Penguin Bear were followed by the band Macbeth playing in a post-punk style, and then Won Fu, famous for its kuso (Japanese style of camp) lyrics. Won Fu was established in 1998 and is characterized by their jubilant style of retro rock. Lead vocalist and guitarist Xiao Min displayed great skill on his guitar, and the whole band collaborated brilliantly. Their vocals set the audience on fire.
At night came Kou Chou Ching, winners of the JPF Music Award 2009. The band uses traditional musical instruments such as the suona (a Chinese woodwind instrument), gongs and cymbals, and a hybrid of musical lyrics in Mandarin, Taiwanese and Hakka. The combination of traditional folk songs with avant-garde rock music created deep and heartfelt excitement. Later, Taiwanese-style classic rock band The Chairman pushed the atmosphere to a frenetic climax. The four members of the band appeared wearing the traditional facial makeup from Chinese opera, evoking an enormous reaction from the audience with screams rending the night air.
"Taiwanese bands are extremely animated and dynamic. The volatile dialect created by juxtaposing the styles of The Chairman and Kou Chou Ching was incredible, something almost unheard of in Hong Kong, where bands generally sing in English. It's like a super evolutionary version of the style created by [Taiwanese rock star] Wu Bai," enthused fan Vic Shing, a student at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Although few Hong Kong people understand Taiwanese or Hakka, and many are not well versed even in standard Mandarin, they are not aware of any language barrier because they're attracted by the shocking and very powerful music.
The second day's program was organized in a more relaxing vein: the psychedelic feel of electronic rock during the day and post-punk lyric style at night. The latter included Dadado Huang's languid vocal style, and guitarist Arny from We Save Strawberries deeply touched every girl's heart with each silken chord.
The band Echo, nominees at Taiwan's Golden Melody Awards in 2011, then pushed the concert rhythm to a faster pace, with lead vocalist Wu Pochang's wild but sweet voice nurturing audience excitement. Suddenly, at the climax of his set, he performed an amazing "stage effect" bending straight backwards, leaving the audience stunned.
At the evening's finale, the arena was filled with anticipation as the audience were longing to meet their favorite idols. Singer/songwriter Waa Wei's sweet voice demonstrated her extraordinary vocal range and moved many of the audience to tears. Numbers such as Shangrila and If became audience participation events. At one special moment, she lay full-length on stage to sing, creating an emotional high for the evening. As the audience raised their cameras to take photos, the flashes from thousands of cameras lit the scene like hundreds of fluorescent sticks sparkling in the air.
Finally came a new musical duo, Sandee Chan and Chen Jianqi, calling themselves "19." The birth of the team derives from an interesting story. Chen made a lot of music for the theater and advertising jingles, but he wrote only instrumentals. When Sandee heard his music, she sensed an opportunity, and started to write lyrics and polish the songs, eventually producing their records. Sandee, nicknamed the "Dark Princess" by fans, a winner of the Golden Melody Award for best female singer, and a judge in a popular TV talent show, enjoys great fame in Hong Kong. The audience became intoxicated with her light electronic music style, bringing the two-day event to a close with lingering encores and applause for a good 10 minutes.
Oliver believes that this festival has ignited a fire under Hong Kong's rock music scene. Because audiences in Hong Kong weren't familiar with all the 19 bands from Taiwan, the organizers released the schedule only on the day of the concert to prevent fans from only coming to see their favorite bands.
The strategy worked well. Bands such as Macbeth, QueenSuitcase and We Save Strawberries were new to Hong Kong, but got the most enthusiastic responses, with albums selling out at the event and fans later continuing to buy albums via the organizer's Facebook page.
Jay Choi, former lead vocalist with independent Hong Kong band Audrey Lily, says that in the 1980s bands such as Tat Ming Pair and Beyond created a wave of independent music in Hong Kong, but they lacked the firepower to keep the scene alive. So now Hong Kong fans have been able to re-experience the brilliance of independent music through the festival. "Everyone is saying that they're going to start practicing again."
Chen Jianqi admits that Taiwan Calling failed to attract as many people as hoped for. However, a new music festival needs time to build its reputation. The Spring Scream and the Ho-Hai-Yan festivals, for example, took many years to reach their current prominence.
"Hong Kong audiences are accustomed to watching mainstream rock concerts held in the Hong Kong Coliseum. If Taiwan Calling can help them explore their enthusiasm and desire for the spirit of independent music-making, and appreciate the spirit of participating in and creating music, it is valuable beyond words," says Chen.
Taiwan and Hong Kong are separated by only a short expanse of sea, but musicians from the two regions have mixed feelings of pride and envy towards each other. After Taiwan Calling, perhaps Hong Kong will be inspired to generate its own new breed of independent music makers. We look forward to seeing what happens.