Wed, Jun 28, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Pop awards offered spice, diversity

Sunday’s Golden Melody Awards might not have been of interest to those who are not keen on the local music scene, but there were a few pointers to remind us that Taiwan is moving in the right direction and should keep doing so.

First, the diversity of the major award winners, whether musically or linguistically, was encouraging.

It was not surprising that No Party For Cao Dong (草東沒有派對) won the Best Band award, but they also took home the Best New Artist and Song of the Year awards.

This is noteworthy because they play alternative rock in a mainstream scene where “rock” often amounts to a pop musician holding an electric guitar, and not so long ago they would have been labeled “underground,” without even a chance on the big stage, much less to win a major award.

Sangpuy Katatepan Mavaliyw’s Album of the Year award highlighted the increasing popularity of Aboriginal musicians who release albums of original, modern music sung in Aboriginal languages.

The ceremony also saw the lead singer of Urban Cat (二本貓) make her acceptance speech for the Best Hakka Album award in Hakka, while the winner of Best Hoklo Male Singer, Hsieh Ming-yu (謝銘佑), lamented that young people have a poor understanding of Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) and encouraged them to speak it whenever they get a chance.

With Sangpuy taking the top award, some might question why the awards are still divided into language categories and not focused purely on the music, but because all languages besides Mandarin were marginalized for decades (with many Aboriginal languages endangered or extinct), it is clear that these categories are necessary to increase their exposure and to encourage musicians to sing in their mother tongue.

Maybe one day, when these languages have all become a solid part of a collective Taiwanese identity and are no longer threatened, the Golden Melody Awards can drop the separate categories and have musicians compete for one “Taiwanese” award, but the nation is not ready for that yet. There is nothing wrong with handing out too many awards in the name of linguistic diversity.

The awards have also become a platform for activists, as attendees and nominees took the opportunity to publicly address a number of social issues, most notably Best Arrangement winner Ellen Loo (盧凱彤), who thanked her wife (whom she married in Canada) during her speech.

A number of musicians also protested against Asia Cement’s mining in Hualien, notably Starr Chen (陳星翰), who yelled “Fuck Asia Cement” after his speech.

While swearing on live television cannot be condoned, this highlighted Taiwan as a nation in which celebrities are willing to take an active stand on the causes they believe in, furthering the conversation about such topics. It is better to speak out than to stay silent, after all.

Drawing 3.5 million viewers nationwide — not including those who watched the live stream or recap — the awards were presumably watched by people of all walks of life and inclinations, including those who do not follow the news. Like it or not, they heard the messages.

There will undoubtedly be arguments that music events should stay focused on music, but even from a strictly entertainment perspective, there is nothing like some controversy to spice up a rather pedestrian ceremony without having to resort to the antics of Kanye West.

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