Fresh sounds from Taiwan at SXSW Online 2021

Wave BK News, Wave BK Special Pick-Up

For over 30 years, it’s the first time for SXSW turning physical lives to online concerts this year. Taiwan Beats invites four Taiwanese bands, Enno Cheng, Fire EX., The Chairs and NekoJam to play outside of the venue box. Stages of SXSW Online Showcase will be portrayed by Taiwanese iconic attractions varied from mountains, the traditional factory, indoor shrimp fishing to Taiwanese temples. Taiwan’s diverse and unique cultural offerings are dedicated through the series of lives and urban scenery.

Embraced by natural spectaculars and wonders, there are 268 mountains over 3,000 meters, which marks Taiwan one of the countries with the highest density of high mountains in the world. First comes the interdisciplinary Enno Cheng, shifting between singer-songwriter, actor and writer, she allurres people with her contagious and soul touching sounds. Growing up in the hills of Beitou, cultivated by nature, Cheng empowers her works with intrepid and poetic perspectives. Into the wild, we hear beyond music.

In addition to the pioneering semiconductor industry, the national mask production team followed epidemic-prevention measures, Taiwan is renowned for the economic boom contributed by proficient factories and competent workers. Fire EX., nourished by the industrial city, Kaohsiung, fueled by fundamental punk rock, their music embodies this common touch to bound up with the masses. Fire EX. has inspired the ”we can be heroes“ moment for every anonymous Taiwanese, and that shapes them one of the epoch making bands of our time.

The Chairs is an indie gem three-piece with duo vocals. Sparkling tunes with the dreamy classy psychedelic and jazzy gaze, this urban chic trio takes us on a good trip to the 80’s retrospective in Taiwan. The indoor shrimp fishing could be seen as Taiwanese Soirée bringing people closer. The everyday leisure later included Karaoke and stir-fried with multi layers of sensations, is exactly what The Chair has to offer, a very Taiwanese overwhelming banquet covering the luxury of tastes, sounds and visuals.

Taiwan is highly inclusive and diverse for its variant communities, languages and religions. Among all engaging vitality here, Taiwanese temple and shrine culture tops all, offering a ride that welcomes all colors, carrying worshippers’ sincerity and abundant cultural heritages. These days, there are folk art parades adapting to a more open environment, leaving gender bias behind and even integrating EDM into the rituals. The Taichung quartet, NekoJam, was founded a decade ago, the all female electronic band unapologetically scrambles house, electro and pop hooks, like throwing a time-traveling parade in the river of history. The Taichung quartet, NekoJam, was founded a decade ago, the all female electronic band unapologetically scrambles house, electro and pop hooks, like throwing a time-traveling parade in the river of history.


Enno Cheng 鄭宜農

Enno Cheng @Camping East Side, Yilan

Singer/songwriter, actress, author, playwright, screenwriter. Any of these could be used to describe Taiwanese songstress Enno Cheng, and yet as is the case with labelling any enigmatic performer or channeller of the creative flow, mere words would fall far short of the ungraspable truth—the search for which charts the course of her artistic journey. Cheng, from the idyllic and sleepy Eastern Taiwan seaside town of Yilan, was a Chinese major at Tamkang University in Tamsui, New Taipei City, in 2007, when she took a leave of absence to star in the film Summer’s Tail, a story of making your own happiness amidst the most dire of circumstances, for which Cheng also wrote the script. This garnered her a Golden Horse Award nomination for Best New Performer.

Though she would lose out on the award, more roles would come, and in 2011, Cheng put her versatility as an artist on full display with her debut album, Neptune. With a stripped down, truthful approach—a throwback to the folk-pop roots of both the Eastern and Western hemispheres—Neptune placed Cheng firmly on the Taiwanese indie map. Her lyrics, odes to love, the beauty of nature, personal identity, and emotive musings on the alienation of urban life, have endeared her to countless fans, many of which are young people just like her, taking life head on, navigating treacherous, unfamiliar terrain for the first time. In Cheng, they find themselves a kindred spirit—a guide calling out from somewhere in the darkness, telling them that they are not alone.

Later, Cheng would form the band Chocolate Tiger, a group that would allow her to further spread her musical wings beyond bare acoustic asceticism, uplifting her sound to denser, more melodic elevation. Yet another collaborative effort, the pop rock collective Felix Felicis, marked Cheng as a true musical polymath, willing to go wherever the creative forces within compel her to go. Since Neptune first introduced Enno Cheng to the world nearly a decade ago, she has, either as a solo artist or with her bands, put out four more albums, taking to stages at major music festivals both at home (Formoz, Megaport, Rock In Taichung, Wake Up, Simple Life) and abroad (South By Southwest). Her arrival as a major force in the Taiwanese indie scene has won her opening slots for the likes of Broken Social Scene and other major players. In 2017, she went back to her solo acoustic routes with her second album under her own name, this one entitled Pluto, keeping with her planetary-themed album titles that serve as the perfect companion to her spacy, ethereal take on raw, acoustic explorations of the human condition and musings on modern life.

Following Pluto came 2019’s Dear Uranus, yet another step in her evolution as a singer who can be counted on for her warm, poetic compositions, candid and revealing, laying mind and soul bare for the world to see. In Enno Cheng, the next generation of Taiwan’s indie songwriters has an artist who has given them the perfect blueprint—the floorplan for building a base on which they will someday erect their own unique structure. In her open-book lyrics, they have learned that it is not just OK, but admirable to be honest. In her bare-bones yet rich production, they have seen irrefutable proof that indie music need not be hidden beneath layer upon layer of million-dollar studio magic.

Like Cheng before them, aspiring artists of today know that all you need to strike a chord with the universe is an acoustic guitar and the thoughts swirling in your head, begging for an outlet. Cheng has chosen to share those that were once trapped within her own mind with the world, and the world is in turn richer for it.

Fire Ex. 滅火器

Fire Ex. @Machine Factory, Taichung

Fire EX., formed in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, in 2000, is made up of lead vocalist Sam, guitarist Orio, bassist Jc, who were classmates in high school, and Kg, who stepped in as the drummer since early 2019. To date, Fire EX. has released five full albums and many singles. The band combines punk rock with lyrics that reflect the experience of everyday life and captures the vibes of the current zeitgeist, striking a chord with Taiwanese audience and wins the title of “People’s Band of Taiwan”.

The band has been active in touring and organizing live events in East Asia with their company, Fire On Music, in recent years. Since 2013, the band has teamed up with MONOEYES from Japan to organize four “Far East Union” tour, a series of live performances joined by punk bands from Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong to tour in 4 major cities in East Asia.

Started from live venues with only 200 audiences, Fire EX. has fought its way into major festivals across the globe. In 2016, Fire EX. garnered their Japanese fan base with the release of their album in Japan and the collaboration with legendary musicians Takeshi Hosomi and Masafumi Isobe. In the same year, the band performed at Summer Sonic, the biggest festival in Japan. In 2017, Fire EX. became the first-ever Taiwanese band to play at Punkspring, the biggest punk festival of Japan, and performed in Central Park New York at the Summer Stage 2017 as the featured artist of Taiwanese Waves. Fire Ex. also made a first by playing in Okinawa at What a Wonderful World!!18, a festival organized by Okinawa band MONGOL800 in 2018.

In 2015, Fire EX.’s ‘Island’s Sunrise’ became the signature tune for the Sunflower Movement, bagging the much-coveted ‘Golden Melody Awards – Best Song of the Year’ award, and in September of the same year, set up their own music company – Fire On Music Co., Ltd. In the following year, the band released their 4th album ‘REBORN’ and made history by organizing ‘2016 On Fire Day’, the first-ever live concert to be held in a baseball arena in Taiwan and attracted over 10,000 audiences.

In 2017, the band brought their new song and Best Of collection album ‘Beginning The Second Half’ on their 35-stop world tour in 25 cities in Taiwan, Japan, the US, and Europe. The hit song of the album, ‘Southbound Night Bus’ brought tears and memories of home to Taiwanese overseas.

With the success of hitting the milestones, Fire EX. returned to their hometown to start FIREBALL Fest. in 2017. Featuring SUM 41 of Canada, BRAHMAN of Japan, HYUKOH of Korea as headliners, FIREBALL Fest. quickly stood out as a first-class music festival in Taiwan. The 2019 FIREBALL Fest., with legendary Japanese band ELLEGARDEN as the headliner, attracted some 20,000 festival-goers to the 2-day event and rooted its brand image as the first punk-themed festival and top music festival of Taiwan.

Fire Ex. released their 5th album ’Stand Up Like A Taiwanese’ in December 2019. The album touches upon the history of democratization in Taiwan over the past hundred years and reaches further into the society with the band’s influence over young Taiwanese. The album speaks directly to Taiwanese audience, calling them to stand firmly and unapologetically as a proud Taiwanese, and once again shows the impact of Fire Ex. on Taiwanese indie music scene. In the year of 2020, Fire Ex. won the band’s second GMA awards – Best Band for the album ’Stand Up Like A Taiwanese’.

The Chairs 椅⼦樂團

The Chairs @Zhishan Shrimp Fishing, Taipei

Formed by YunJin, ZhongYing and Benson, The Chairs were nominated multiple awards in Golden Indie Music Awards (GIMA) in 2016. In 2018, met with the new generation producer Eazie Huang, they soon hit it off with the new producer, and together created the brand new album. With a bit romantic, acid, retro and a bit naughty album, The Chairs got a second-time nomination by GIMA for Best Folk Single Award and received the Best Group Award from Golden Melody Award 30th. In 2020, The Chairs released their third album «Real Love Is…»

NekoJam 妮可醬

NeKoJam @Bangka Qingshan Temple, Taipei

NekoJam is an all-female electronic music group made up of four members that met as university classmates in Taichung, Taiwan. Their name is a combination of the Japanese word «Neko,» which means cat and the universal term for instrumental improv and experimentation: «Jam.» NekoJam have evolved to develop their own unique version of electronic music with live instrumentation alongside upbeat pop and rock overtones. Working to perfect their craft using live instruments sets them apart from other acts in the field of electro-pop and house.

NekoJam includes Sandra the vocalist, Molly the bassist/ synth and sampler player, Kim the drummer, and Ching the keyboardist. From their beginning as rock and roll musicians to pop rockers, and then to a live EDM act, even their look and fashion choices changed to a brighter, more colorful modern style.

Two years of working on new material developed into their debut album, NKJ_1, which was released on ROKON Records in September of 2019. Their girl-power image bounces along nicely with catchy hooks set to fun-loving pop music infused with an electronic flavor. They took this opportunity to collaborate with international producers DJ Phresh and Nathan C, who influenced the direction of the album.

Combining playful melodies and danceable beats with a keen sense of image and fashion, their popularity has opened up many possibilities for the sound of the future and showed that Taiwan has room for the next wave of artists who can push the boundaries of electronic music.

Info powered by: Young Team Production & Taiwan Beats

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