Sun, Mar 14, 2004 - Page 17 News List

The rallying call of politics

Specially commissioned campaign music in Taiwanese politics is unique , an expert in the field says

By Vico Lee  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chen Shui-bian belts out a campaign song.

In the countdown to the March 20 presidential election, the two competing camps are not only trading barbs about black gold and corruption, but striving to drown out each other musically. Green- and blue-

flagged campaign trucks blare out at full volume invigorating campaign songs to the most remote corners of the country as they make their rounds along every street.

"Election campaigns in Taiwan are much more interesting than in other countries, especially in their use of music," said Nancy Guy, professor at the Department of Music of the University of California, San Diego, who is in Taiwan researching campaign music. "The commissioning of original campaign songs is a uniquely Taiwanese phenomenon."

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has a long history of using campaign songs and paved his way to Taipei City Hall in 1994 by singing Taipei, New Hometown (台北新故鄉) and Spring Blossoms. (春天的花蕊) These two songs, with lyrics like: "Putting new branches on the old tree/Making every twig stretch toward the sky" and, "You're the most beautiful flower in spring/I'm not afraid to get caught in the rain for you," mark the start of the use of original pop-style music for election campaigns.

Ten years later both the DPP and the KMT-PFP camps are taking campaign music to new levels. In January, the DPP released an album of seven original songs and one hit single collection of songs used in previous campaigns, the largest production of musical products for a campaign. Around the same time, the Lien Chan (連戰) and James Soong (宋楚瑜) presidential campaign released the pan-blue parties' first campaign music album of six original songs and three remakes of older songs. Both camps released KTV versions and provide downloadable cellphone ring tones on their Web sites.

The KMT-PFP's Bring Taiwan Together! album is a change from its previous practice of recycling old patriotic songs. The six original compositions all have Taiwanese-language lyrics.

"The KMT used to adopt songs like Praise the Republic of China (中華民國頌) in campaigns, but times have changed. Campaigning as an opposition party, we want to appeal to certain ethnic groups that we've been trying to win over," said Justin Chou (周守訓), spokesman of the KMT and one of the four singers in Orange Blue, the chorus performing on the album.

"We hope that the songs move Taiwanese and they can sing along to them. For voters of different musical tastes, we have included styles such as heavy metal, dance, hip hop, Southern Taiwanese melodies, orchestral, easy-listening and traditional marching music, all sung in Taiwanese," Chou said.

"At first we were not going to include any Mandarin songs until we noticed that the pop classic Tomorrow Will Be Better (明天會更好) matched our campaign. We also adopted The True Colors of Hakka, which is well-known in Hakka communities, and arranged some songs in an Aboriginal style, to express our stand on ethnic harmony and the solidarity issue. As for the lyrics, there's no more Long Live the Republic of China, there's only ordinary citizens' discontent," Chou said.

Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), media section chief of the Chen Shui-bian presidential campaign headquarters said, "The DPP has always led the trend [in regard] campaign music. We have been able to produce songs that are good enough to become pop music hits. Moreover, we show our party's spirit in them. The KMT's campaign music does not live up to their image.

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