Mon, May 26, 2008 - Page 13 News List

Finding her voice again

Folk music pioneer and former activist TC Yang returns with a retrospective album

By David Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

She quit after nine months and went to work at the Guangci Care Home (廣慈博愛院), a halfway house for teenage prostitutes. Yang held a charity concert to raise awareness for the home, which irked the KMT: they labeled her as a person with “problematic thinking” and ostracized her for “exposing the dark side of society.”

The charity concert set Yang on her path as a political activist. She started performing at factories and labor rallies. The KMT followed, banning her from public performances between 1979 and 1981. But Yang continued to record her songs as anthems for the dangwai movement, which included her husband at the time, former legislator Lin Cheng-chieh (林正杰).

By the late 1980s, Yang wasn’t singing much. Most of her time went to running a social issues magazine, Progress (前進) and helping Lin, a frequent political target of the KMT. As the dangwai movement grew, their marriage fell apart. Yang returned to school, earning her PhD in cultural studies from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Her departure from music remains painful. “I left something that was so important to me, something I loved so much … I could live without the social movement, my degree … but music … ,” Yang said, tears welling in her eyes.

At first, she was reluctant about releasing the new album, but relented after encouragement from friends: Chung She-fong (鍾適芳), whose label, Trees Music and Art, produced the album; and a friend from the dangwai movement, Tsai Shih-yuan (蔡式淵).

On a lecture tour to promote the album, Yang hadn’t planned on singing. But she had trouble sparking the interest of a new generation of students. So she started to bring her guitar to the lectures, which has helped. “I still feel a little embarrassed to do my songs, though,” she said.

Yang has started to write songs again, and she still recalls the thrill of when she started performing: “As soon as I started to sing, I was not the least bit worried about the world. I dived right into the song.”

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