Anyone who holds a pessimistic view about the nation’s future may take comfort in knowing that Taiwanese musicians are projecting themselves loudly and strongly.
Several artists at the Golden Melody Awards on Saturday used the event to raise awareness — on and off-stage — of social issues facing the country, which they considered to be of critical importance.
Hip-hop artists Kou Chou Ching (拷秋勤) plastered anti-nuclear stickers on their faces and wore customized black-and-white suits printed with the message: “What is happiness? Zero nuclear power.”
Aboriginal musician Dakanow (達卡鬧) walked the red carpet with a towel promoting the fight against the controversial Miramar Resort Hotel on the eastern coast.
Best Aboriginal Singer Award winner Sangpuy led fellow Aboriginal performers onstage, expressing their commitment to safeguarding their ancestral land.
Four bands came together to outline the development of the nation’s independent music: popular band Mayday (五月天), rock band The Chairman (董事長樂團), alt-rock veterans Backquarter (四分衛) and Luantan A-hsiang (亂彈阿翔) — a group led by singer-songwriter A-hsiang (阿翔) of the beloved, but now defunct, underground rock band Luantan (亂彈).
They began by depicting the struggle of independent music groups to develop their music, including their indignation over the closure of a well-known live house, Underworld (地下社會), one of many live music venues that have been closed down by the government.
The performance ended by sending the audience’s blood racing: A giant image of the word “良心” (liang xin, conscience) was projected in bright red, filling the screen behind the stage, and then the group broke into rousing song urging greater expression of the vitality of Taiwanese society and celebration of the originality of the nation’s rock music.
As many people in show business are notorious for ducking social issues, it was gratifying to see so many high-profile artists braving the risk of being blacklisted by corporations and government agencies to take a public stance on social issues.
Because of that night, perhaps many young people who previously had a gloomy image of their future will not think it is quite so bleak, judging by the positive reaction of the young fans in the audience.
As for criticisms directed at the musicians for mixing social issues with entertainment, a better question would be: “Why not?”
There is no denying that many youngsters have only become aware of social issues facing Taiwan through their favorite bands and artists.
While people should not blindly follow the celebrities they admire, surely it does the nation good to have more people, particular young people, pay more attention to matters that concern their nation’s core values of democracy and human rights.
In the eyes of many, these outspoken artists have become more than just singers, band members or celebrities; rather they have become warriors — warriors for the voiceless, for the unjustly deprived and warriors fighting for Taiwanese democracy and rights.
As we applaud their courage in taking a public stance on critical issues, let us hope more celebrities follow suit and use their influence to raise public awareness, helping to foster debate on public policies.