Mon, Apr 20, 2009 - Page 2 News List

Taiwanese songs from 1930s are a hit all over again

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Golden oldies never go out of fashion.

A CD featuring digitalized remastered original recordings of popular songs from the 1930s released by the Taipei City Department of Cultural Affairs has proven to be a hit since its release on Saturday.

The CD was released in homage to late Taiwanese lyricist Lee Lin-chiu (李臨秋) on the 100th anniversary of his birth, which falls on Wednesday.

The 23 tracks of digitalized 1930s recordings — including nine written by Lee — come with a book recounting the history of the Taiwanese music industry in the 1930s and the stories behind the songs.

Born in 1909 in Taipei while Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule, Lee, along with many other Taiwanese musicians, such as composer Teng Yu-hsien (鄧雨賢) and lyricists Chen Chun-yu (陳君玉) and Chen Ta-ju (陳達儒), was worried that Taiwanese culture and the originality of Taiwanese music could disappear as most people were listening to popular Japanese music at the time. They therefore decided to make “Taiwan’s own popular music.”

Their attempt was successful — many people today consider the 1930s as the first golden age of Taiwanese popular music. Unfortunately, only about 200 of the more than 500 songs produced during that time survive today.

“It was a challenging task,” Taipei City Cultural Affairs Commissioner Lee Yong-ping (李永萍) said about the project to find the original recordings and to digitalize the music for release on CD.

“Many record collectors did not want to loan us the more than half-a-century old records that still have very good sound quality,” Lee Yong-ping said. “It was also quite a task to get the copyright issues straightened out, since most of the musicians have passed away.”

On the technical side, it was also the first attempt to digitalize music from decades-old records in Taiwan, she said.

But the efforts were not in vain — the CD proved to be a hit only a day after its release.

“A total of 2,000 copies were released yesterday [Saturday] and we’ve sold more than 800 of them so far,” Lin Li-wen (林麗雯), a staff member at the 228 Memorial Museum said yesterday.

“People who bought the CD are of different age groups — a lot of young people bought it for their elderly relatives or said they wanted to get the feeling of olden times,” Lin said.

The 228 Memorial Museum in Taipei is the only place where the CD is available at the moment.

As Lin spoke to the Taipei Times in her office, phone calls inquiring about the CD continued to flood in.

A concert will be held to honor Lee Lin-chiu at the 228 Peace Park in Taipei on Saturday at 7pm.

For information about the CD, contact Yu (余) at (02)2389-7228 ext. 26.

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