"It sounds a bit odd, but we were like pop stars. We didn't release records, but people still stopped us on the street to say `hello.' And the women, well, some of the guys used to have a different one in each of the bars or teahouses they played," said Chen Sen-chun (
Although many of the tunes the men of nakashi performed were simply cover versions of other people's songs, they certainly weren't averse to penning their own creations -- many of which, although far from political, were awash with social commentary.
"It was illegal to say rude things about the government, but the guys used to fill the songs with humorous tales of Taiwanese society," said Chung Chen-ta (鐘成達), a member of the award winning-band, Labor Exchange (交工樂隊) and a student of nakashi. "I figure that as most of the cover versions they performed were about love, the change in lyrics and topics was a great relief to many of them. After all, there's only so many times you can play someone else's song without getting frustrated and bored."
By the mid-1980s, many of the nakashi acts had disappeared from teahouses and bars in Tamsui and Keelung, and with urban renewal programs seeing parts of the Wanhua district of Taipei leveled, the nakashi men were slowly running out of venues in which to perform. The only place nakashi continued to prove popular was in Taipei's northern suburb of Peitou, where nakashi acts could be caught performing until as recently as the mid-1990s.
"I guess it has a bit to do with the Japanese influence in Peitou remaining so strong. But I reckon what really killed off nakashi was when the old bath houses and hotels went up market, installed karaoke machines in the rooms and tried to shed their seedy images," Tsan said.
With a lack of venues from which to ply their trade, people like Tsan and Chen are now finding that the only time they get to perform their music is for the media.
"There's not much demand for nakashi performers anymore, as the hotels and bars all have karaoke machines, which are cheaper than employing a band. And of course the customers don't have to tip," Chen said. "About the only time we perform now is when a television channel is producing a documentary."
While it could be argued that the death toll rang for nakashi many years before Wang's death, Chen feels that the popular musician's passing has destroyed any possibility of a nakashi revival.
Magic Stone's Chang agrees.
"I don't think it is possible that a band would be able to pull off what the King of Kinmen did, as the sense of Taiwanese-ness is not as strong anymore," Chang said. "With the DPP in power and martial law long lifted, there is little call for Taiwanese-ness. It's like nobody cares about such things anymore."
The same cannot be said of Japan, however, where its form of nakashi, is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, especially among the young.