Tuesday, September 28, 2010

To "Open Taipei," First Open Yourself

To "Open Taipei," First Open Yourself
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
September 28, 2010

Su Tseng-chang is the Democratic Progressive Party's candidate for Taipei City Mayor. Su is running on an "Open Taipei" platform. He says he wants to use music to awaken a Taipei burdened by "boredom, helplessness, and anxiety." Past political campaigns have often used music. Su however, invited 33 musicians and 20 music groups to write and perform 11 Mandarin, Hoklo, Hakka, English, and Vietnamese songs. They include everything from love songs to hip-hop, everything from R&B to New Age. Su commissioned Hsiao Ching-yang, Taiwan's only three time Grammy finalist, to design a trendy CD cover. This sort of extravagance and boldness is a first for the Taiwan political stage.

Actually, whether Taipei is burdened by "boredom, helplessness, and anxiety," as Su Tseng-chang insists, depends largely upon one's political orientation. What's interesting is that the album claims it is using "entirely apolitical" means to attract moderate voters. Li Hou-ching, the chief publicist for the Su Tseng-chang campaign committee, insists that the album is entirely apolitical, Based on content alone, it may do little for Su's election prospects. But the production and marketing of the album involved many political considerations. Of the 20 musical groups that participated, most insisted on anonymity. Their main concern was "fear that others would see political connections."

The producer of the album was well-known rock band lead singer Wu Yong-ji. Wu was willing to make his own participation known. He said others were unable to make their identities public due to concern on the part of their agents. They wanted to avoid political coloration. Therefore the artists signed confidentiality agreements. The musicians would participate, on condition of anonymity. Wu Yong-ji said that for musicians to create and perform music, but not be able to reveal their identities, constituted a tragedy for Taiwan. He said he hoped Taiwan would allow the creators of the music to reveal their identities under a genuine system of "democratic freedom."

The Republic of China has undergone two ruling party changes. The DPP served as the ruling party. Its candidate served as president. The Taipei mayoral race Su Tseng-change has entered is a local election. Is the political climate really so fraught with peril that even musicians participating in the "Open Taipei" production, must engage in cloak and dagger intrigue? Do Su Tseng-chang and these musicians really believe they are living in the "dang wai" era, and that they risk being put on some sort of terrifying "blacklist?" To borrow Chen Shui-bian's famous remark: "Is it really that serious?"

The "Open Taipei" musicians' reason for wanting anonymity, according to the Su camp's own spin, is to avoid political overtones. Outsiders speculate that some of the music groups may not wish to be labeled politically because this might affect their marketability on the Mainland. Assume for the moment that their desire for anonymity is not a gimmick or marketing ploy, but reflects genuine concerns. If so, these musicians and the Su Tseng-chang campaign committee are making a mountain out of a molehill. Becoming politically colored ceased being an issue on Taiwan long ago. The fact is most people don't care that much about an artist's political colors.

Any social tensions resulting from clashes between Blue and Green Camp performing artists during Su Tseng-chang's Taipei mayoral campaign are unlikely to compare to social tensions during the 2008 presidential election. Some artists with intense political colors got into shouting matches with each other. After the election however, everyone returned to business as usual. Whether they were Blue or Green was no big deal. Besides, according to the album notes, the bands who participated in "Open Taipei" were indie bands. During the authoritarian era indie bands were unafraid to voice their political views. Have they really become fearful of showing their faces now that democracy prevails? The "Open Taipei" album centers on Taipei. Its content is heart-warming and inspirational. It encourages people to love and respect Taipei. Such content, as the Su camp asserted, is "entirely apolitical." Not only that, it is pleasant and uplifting. What reason do any of the music groups involved have to be terrified that people will find out?

Wu Yong-chi claims that the reason these musicians wish to remain anonymous is they do not want to diminish their marketability on the Mainland. But Chen Chao-jung, a Formosa TV prime time and Sanlih E TV "nativist" TV star has successfully performed on the Mainland. Several other "stunning artists" have also perfromed on the Mainland. Why would the "Open Taipei" musicans have so many misgivings and concerns? Why would they go so far as to make an album but hide their identities? These indie bands are being "cautious" beyond comprehension. Has time really run backwards? Are we really revisiting history? Besides, when did indie groups become so petty and timid? If the Su camp's intention is to protect these musicians by keeping them anonymous, it may be "killing them with love." It may be neutering them by depriving them of their spirit of rebellion.

If on the other hand, the Su camp's intention was to posture as a victim of authoritarian tyranny, to invoke memories of the spectre of authoritarianism, to create a sense of solidarity, then its tactics are immoral. They will also be ineffective. One hopes this is not the motivation behind the strategy of anonymity adopted by "Open Taipei." The Su camp has long proclaimed its desire to jettison stereotypical Green Camp propaganda methods. One hopes the Su camp is not backsliding. We would like to remind the Su camp and the "Open Taipei" musicians to believe in the Republic of China's democracy, Before they "Open Taipei" they should "open themselves." They should look at Taiwan's political past and present, and realize they need not frighten themselves to death.

想開放台北 何妨先打開自己

民進黨台北市市長候選人蘇貞昌推出競選專輯《Open Taipei》,希望能用音樂叫醒他認為呈現「無趣、無力、讓人覺得焦慮」的台北;選舉中有競選歌曲很常見,不過,像蘇貞昌這樣一口氣邀集了卅三個音樂人,廿組獨立音樂團隊參與創作,製作出橫跨國、台、客、英及越南語,從抒情到嘻哈、R&B到New Age的十一首歌,並邀請到台灣唯一三次入圍葛萊美獎的蕭青陽製作「潮牌風」CD封面,這等手筆與氣魄,在台灣政壇還屬首見。



台灣已經政黨輪替兩次,民進黨也執政做過總統了,蘇貞昌參選的這個台北市市長又是地方選舉,到底是有多肅殺、多危險,以至於連音樂創作人投入這張《Open Taipei》的製作時,還必須偷偷摸摸地搞神祕,蘇貞昌以及這些音樂人覺得自己還在「黨外時期」、還在「黑名單」的年代嗎?套一句陳水扁總統的名言:「有這麼嚴重嗎?」

《Open Taipei》音樂人匿名的理由,根據蘇陣營自己的講法是為了避免沾上政治色彩,外界則猜測可能與部分音樂團體不想因此被貼上標籤,影響在對岸市場的發展。如果匿名演出不是一個噱頭、不是為了行銷,而是真的有上述的擔心,那這些音樂人、蘇貞昌總部,都可能是多慮了。不要說台灣現在的政治現實早就對所謂的「沾惹政治色彩」這件事沒有限制,就是一般人對藝人的政治色彩到底是什麼的這件事情,其實也沒有那麼在意。

論到台灣藝人藍綠之別所引發的某種社會情緒,蘇貞昌參與的台北市市長選舉,再怎麼樣也不會如同二○○八年總統大選般強烈,當時部分政治立場較為鮮明的藝人彼此對陣叫罵,選完後,大家還不是如常過日子;是藍是綠,有什麼大不了的!更何況,根據專輯介紹,參與《Open Taipei》的都是獨立樂團,獨立樂團在政治威權時代都敢為當年的黨外發聲,怎麼到了民主時代,反而不敢露臉了?《Open Taipei》整張專輯以「台北」為創作核心,內容溫暖勵志,為的是喚醒人們對台北的愛與尊敬,這樣的內容,不但照蘇陣營的說法是「很不政治」,而且還很討人喜歡、可以給人正面的感受,參與的音樂團體有什麼怕人知道的呢?

吳永吉公開這些音樂創作人之所以要匿名的理由是不想影響他們在大陸的演藝之路,在民視八點檔、三立本土一哥陳昭榮陸續成功登陸,以及許多傳說中的「絕色藝人」也在大陸演出後,《Open Taipei》的音樂人為什麼還會有這麼多顧忌與擔憂,甚至到了連作一張音樂都要隱藏真實身分的程度,這些獨立樂團「小心翼翼」的程度實在令人費解,難道時光倒流了、歷史又走回頭路了?更何況,獨立樂團的風格向來不是這樣小裡小氣的藏首藏尾。如果是想要藉匿名保護這些音樂人,那蘇陣營可能愛之適足以害之,把獨立樂團的叛逆guts給消滅掉了。

如果刻意要以某種受壓迫與專制的姿態,召喚出記憶中的威權魅影,以集結認同,那麼,這樣的操作是不道德的,而且也是無效的。相信這不是走明亮、希望路線的《Open Taipei》採匿名策略的動機,也不會是參選以來一直有意擺脫綠色文宣刻板印象的蘇貞昌陣營的競選手法。那麼,或許在此可以提醒蘇陣營與《Open Taipei》的音樂人:要對台灣的民主、開放有信心──在「Open Taipei」之前,請先想辦法「打開自己」,看看台灣的政治現在已經走到哪裡了,不需要自己嚇自己。

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