For the past three months, a handful of Taiwanese bands have been rocking the boat in a global way. Groups like heavy metal heroes Chthonic (閃靈) and revered post-rockers Sugar Plum Ferry (甜梅號) billed several of their shows as part of Amnesty International’s Small Places Tour, which celebrates the 60th year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or UHDR 60.
Tomorrow night, Taiwan’s portion of the tour concludes at The Wall (這牆) in Taipei when five groups, including anarchist rockers LTK Commune (濁水溪公社) and Hakka singer-songwriter Lin Sheng-xiang (林生祥), perform in a special concert to help Amnesty International Taiwan raise awareness of human rights issues.
“[We want] to make human rights sound cool,” said Chang Tieh-chih (張鐵志), a music writer and political commentator who serves as a director of Arts and Youth at Amnesty Taiwan and organized the tour.
He sees the Small Places Tour as a way to introduce the concept of social consciousness to Taiwanese youths. “They don’t feel familiar with the idea of human rights,” he said. “Our aim is to use popular culture as a weapon to promote human rights.”
The Small Places Tour was conceived by Amnesty International as an awareness and membership drive through music concerts. Endorsements from Peter Gabriel and U2 guitarist The Edge urged musicians all over the world to participate in the tour from Sept. 10 until the anniversary of UDHR 60, which fell on Wednesday. In practice, bands perform according to their regular schedules, but voice their support for Amnesty’s campaigns at shows and encourage their fans to learn about human rights issues. The tour’s name was inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous speech on human rights, in which she said, “Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world.”
6pm White Eyes (白目)
7pm Aphasia (阿飛西雅)
8pm Lin Sheng-xiang (林生祥) and Ken Ohtake (大竹研)
9pm LTK Commune (濁水溪公社)
10pm Kou Chou Ching (拷秋勤) and Chang Jui-chuan (張睿銓)
The Small Places Tour in Taiwan included over 10 bands and more than 20 different shows, at which Chang and fellow volunteers manned booths, passed out flyers and sold T-shirts. Since the start of the tour, Amnesty Taiwan has collected over 1,000 e-mails from concert attendees — an important step in getting the word out about human rights issues, says Chang.
Chang has been encouraged by supportive responses from musicians and notes that more bands than ever are endorsing social causes. The college rock band Echo (回聲樂團) recorded a song especially for the tour, titled Liberation (解放), and will donate the proceeds from it to Amnesty Taiwan.
Chang highlighted the recent concert in support of the Wild Strawberries student movement, which has been protesting recent alleged police brutality and current restrictions on public demonstrations.
It may, however, take the average young music fan longer to catch on, says Chang, noting that many do not realize mainstream artists such as U2 and REM champion human rights causes.
A streak of rock ’n’ roll idealism runs through the 37-year-old Chang, who authored a best-selling book in Taiwan about rock music and social change in the West. “For us rock fans, we have to fight against the mainstream,” he said, referring to public apathy. “If we don’t care about socially disadvantaged groups, who will?”
Tomorrow’s concert includes performances from post-rock band Aphasia, hip-hop musicians Kou Chou Ching (拷秋勤) and Chang Jui-chuan (張睿銓), and garage rockers White Eyes (白目).