It may seem strange that the official song of the Taiwanese Olympic team was written and performed by three guys from England, but then Transition are no ordinary rock band.
Knowing that they sing in both English and Mandarin, and that they have featured a Chinese harp, or gu zheng, in their music, as well as having lived in Taiwan, makes the surprising Olympic connection easier to understand.
The Taipei Times met two members of the group to find out how they ended up performing at a welcoming party for Taiwanese athletes at the Taipei Representative Office in London on the eve of the Olympic opening ceremony.
Transition formed at a school in the western English city of Bristol 15 years ago and comprise brothers Josh and Jesse Edbrooke, on drums and electric guitar respectively, and Niall Dunne on bass.
Jesse — who was unable to attend the interview because his wife was in hospital — and Niall share vocal duties, with the former also playing the gu zheng and Niall performing some songs on the piano.
The band’s Taiwanese connection goes back 10 years to the days when Josh and Jesse hosted international students, one of whom was from Taiwan.
“She and some of her classmates would come to our gigs in Bristol and would always say ‘one day you guys have to come to Taiwan,’” Josh said. “I think they were only joking, but we took them a bit more seriously than they expected.”
The band played at the Spring Scream festival in Kenting in 2005, which proved to be a turning point.
“After that festival, we really connected with Taiwan, the people and the place, and we kept going back,” Josh said.
The band relocated to Taiwan in 2009, spending three years in the country during which time they collaborated with artists such as Jay Chou, A-du, Tizzy Bac and Wing. One of the highlights was performing as a backing group for pop star Rainie Yang at the Taipei Arena.
“It was a really fascinating experience because we are a rock group and to suddenly be part of essentially a pop band and doing a big pop concert like that was just a big learning experience and a lot of fun,” Niall said.
The band’s move into performing in Mandarin was a gradual process.
“We started to introduce some Chinese covers, which would always go down well,” Josh said. “We then had a friend translate some of our own English lyrics into Chinese and just this past year we’ve started writing songs from scratch in Chinese. We wanted to make the effort to cross the language barrier.”
The band are big sports fans and this year’s Olympics offered a unique opportunity to write a song for Taiwan’s athletes competing in London.
“We didn’t have any contacts at the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, so we thought we’d chance it and turn up at their offices,” Niall said. “Someone came down to talk to us, went back upstairs, and then came down and invited us up. Apparently they’d seen us on the news a few days earlier.”
The band played a few songs, the committee liked what they heard, and the Olympic song was born.
“It’s a huge honor for us — we’re the first band to write a song for the Taiwanese athletes,” Josh said.
The Taipei Representative Office in London and the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee subsequently invited Transition to perform the song at the welcoming party for Taiwan’s athletes in London.
“We had a great time with the athletes and to be able to sing the song for them meant a lot to us,” Niall said.