—Glocalization in the music industry, how do non-popular music genres from South Korea and Taiwan (non-K Pop & non-Mandopop) respond?
From Taiwan’s experience, I think there are two main issues here, One is how the artists themselves find an angle to connect with the local culture, which can be concluded as imposter syndrome.
Some artists might think that they are not qualified to use certain elements, taking Beiguan as an example, some might worry about if they are authentic or not, they fear that the connection between their music and local culture is too weak. While the other issue is the artists being way too confident about themselves so it became cultural appropriation.
Everybody thinks traditional music is boring. And there are many traditional music records. But people don’t listen to it well. Only a few fans enjoy listening to it.
Given this background, the answer is very simple. The answer is inside the Question. “Unpopular genres must strive to become popular”. I think this is the obvious answer. Musicians have to make an effort to meet more audiences and take time to communicate with the public. In this case, I use the expression “head-to-head”.
I compared several years of experience listening to other countries' world music, and their music is not boring at all, so we have to pour more ideas into the music, making it more energetic and enjoyable. I think the potential and potential of Asian traditional music are high, and I think its future is bright.
I totally agree with experimenting with more possibilities in music, although the outcome might make some curators or professionals think that it’s a misfit, the process in between is the most crucial part, like Lilium, younger musicians who want to actualize this kind of idea now have an example to look onto. Maybe I’m an optimistic person, I think if we keep exploring into the unknown for 5 or 10 years, things will totally be different.
—In the context of integrating traditional music from South Korea and Taiwan into contemporary music, how does Sungchun promote this trend as a producer?
Sungchun and I talked about this topic. If we are comparing “indie music” to “traditional music.” The Korean government supports traditional music but is giving nearly nothing to indie musicians, while our Ministry of Culture is supporting indie artists massively.
Take the apparel stores in Seoul and Tokyo for example, in Seoul it is always electronic music or K-Pop, but in Tokyo, you can see Zara and H&M playing World Music in their store, or you can listen to Awesome Tapes From Africa (label) catalog while shopping because Tokyo is the most multicultural metropolis in Asia. But if we don’t have this background, then what should we do?
This is an interesting perspective. Because if you're comparing the multicultural background to any metropolis in Europe. Of course, Taipei is a different story, but compared to the major cities in Asia, I think we can say Taipei is gradually becoming multicultural.
In my opinion as a producer, I always encourage the artists I’m working with to think outside of the box- to make their music energetic and enjoyable. When performing at music showcases in Europe or America, you are competing with African musicians, and it’s hard to interest people with “traditional music.” The genre of traditional music is not the key, I think the key is how attractive my music is. Or you have to think of a way to let people remember you.
A band from my roster, The Tune, translated their lyrics into Spanish and they got a good response from Latin countries. Recently, I started to work with a young generation musician, Jeongsu Park. She came here for YICFFF and sang Taiwanese songs for the festival. Now I can watch Taiwan Audience singing along with her. After this tour, I will start translating her songs into English.
—Continuing the previous question, how do Korean world/traditional musicians focus?
In South Korea, musicians care about their traditional instruments more than their music. They seemed to have this mission to introduce their instrument to the world rather than themselves. So sometimes they talk like this. “I want to let people know about our country’s traditional music.” or “I want to introduce this instrument to the public.”
In that case, I answer like this. “It is the government's Ministry of Culture to publicize Korean traditional music. Your job is to introduce your music to people.
You mentioned that 95% of the traditional musician you’re in touch with has this attitude. What reason do you think it is?
They might take preserving tradition and culture as their quest for life, and they often dream of being a traditional music teacher or a professor. The common mindset is that they only want to stay in that tradition, but producing their records and introducing them to the world is my job, so I had to make a certain decision to tell them “I don't care.” Because to me, how attractive the music is is more important than the genre of music.
Since you have visited Taiwan several times, and have seen many Taiwanese artists on international showcases, what kind of image do you have towards these artists?
Sometimes I find great musicians in the Taiwanese area. And the surprising thing is that there are so many musicians like that. Their music is good, but I want to share my experience with Taiwanese Artists: I introduced a lot of Korean indie bands with excellent performances to my colleagues in Europe, but no matter how good they are, they don't seem to pay attention. There are so many good bands in the world!
The main issue is not the skill, but the attitude, and this is what I’ve been repeating to artists in my rosters. I’ve seen Taiwanese bands perform perfectly, but they didn’t socialize after their performance, like talking to the organizers, to the promoters, and signing for the fans.
I always talk like this. “You should grab your chance to make people remember you, so they will invite the artist again. Don’t waste this chance.”
Do you remember we had Talahib People’s Music from the Philippines at World Music Festival last year? The young front-woman Charleen has an amazing voice and is friendly to everyone she meets at the event, so the journalist Simon gave her a fairly big article on Songline. That is a successful case of how being friendly and active can form a strong bond for the artists.
I'm sure that the attitude of an artist like Charleen will definitely set her on the path to success.
Sometimes, artists invited to networking conferences found themselves unprepared, such as not doing curatorial research. In business meetings, musicians usually meet buyers for about 10 minutes, but after saying hello, I see many cases where 8 minutes have passed. So, I give homework in advance to artists who are preparing for a meeting. I'd encourage musicians to remember what those invitees are doing.
—Discussion on the comparison of the domestic music market scene before & after the pandemic.
I’ve noticed there are many music session videos that came out during the pandemic, so there must be similar policies applied in both South Korea and Taiwan, could you share with us your perspective?
The situation is the same in Korea. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of musicians produced videos. The government and cultural foundation provided video production to support musicians' activities. So, many musicians have secured videos to promote their music.
Thanks to that, I also planned and produced many videos during the COVID-19 period. Doing so has been of great help to me. I, who was a music-based producer, had an opportunity as a video producer and secured the ability to plan and produce high-quality videos. The video of the 2 bands recently selected for the World Music Expo was produced at that time.
In my production, I always mix the content with artist interviews for promotional purposes, so people who watch the video can grab what’s the artist about in a short time, and their visuals must humbly show what live performance is like.
We eventually worked with the Seoul government on promoting the artists, we organized a showcase conference in the top cinema with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision and invited agencies from Netflix and Disney to join.
As a curator, I think the artists started to think differently after the pandemic. Before the pandemic, I felt lots of artists who performed on stage were performing for themselves, not for the audience.
But after the pandemic, at World Music Festival 2021, after the musicians took a long time off, they started asking me details about the audience before going on stage, which marked a major difference.
—Given the trend of glocalization, should the taxonomy of "world music," which originates from a Western perspective, be reconsidered? How should South Korea and Taiwan address the question of "What is world music?
I find the topic of ethnomusicology challenging yet crucial due to my background in the subject and having studied music. My attitude towards this subject shifted from initial skepticism to eventual acceptance. Western scholars' deep dive into tribal music and cultures was essential, especially in a pre-internet era.
Without their efforts, many traditional music forms might have gone unnoticed. While there were debates around the labeling of this music as "world music" or "fusion music", I now see these efforts as positive, especially in Taiwan. Music is becoming boundaryless. In the future, environmental and equality issues will play a significant role in music discussions.
In the case of Europe and America, they influence each other and share music to the extent that it is difficult to divide the boundaries of each other's music. And musicians are free to move. But Asia is not like that. It is not easy to find Japanese or Chinese bands in Korean clubs. However, if you go to a club in Prague, Czech Republic, you will find a wide variety of music: a band from Paris, a rock band from Rome, and a jazz trio from Israel.
On the other hand, it is very difficult to find such a club in Asia. I think we should first try to understand each other's music, and then professionals like us should try to introduce Asian music. And I dream that there will be wonderful examples of Asian great musicians successfully completing their Asian tours. To do so, I think we need an opportunity for Asian professionals to gather frequently and introduce their own country's music to each other.
Wind Music has been applying for government funding for many artists, but there indeed is grey space between the “indie” and “traditional” where the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development might think they are for the National Culture and Arts Foundation or the reverse.
These artists are what World Music Festival@Taiwan is focusing on, we curated many young bands that have a strong connection to their roots but aren’t afraid to be different, I’m making the audiences think “What is World Music?” in the festival’s context.
Sunchung mentioned that he thinks there’s an urgent need to connect Asian countries, how about the World Music Festival@Taiwan this year? Could you reveal the plan for cross-country connection this year? Are you inviting any artists from South Korea?
There are two main collaborations between Asian countries presented at World Music Festival this year, one is Ohelen and LEAF Yeh (葉穎), and another is Hitoto You (一青窈) and Sangpuy (桑布伊).
ADG7, the Korean band with traditional instruments produced by Sungchun, actually they’re quite famous among traditional music students in the universities here, and re-engaging with the younger generation is also our mission at the World Music Festival@Taiwan this year.
I'm optimistic about the Asian music industry's potential, we will work collectively and eventually impact the Western market. And because of that, mutual support between different music festivals is the key.
Thanks to the excellent director Peiti and Wind Music, I have the chance to introduce two outstanding Korean bands for WMF.
ADG7 is a band based on traditional Korean music, and listening to their music is not boring at all, just as exciting as listening to hip-hop these days. Based on traditional music, it is an example that is recognized in the popular music scene, and I think many industry officials will be interested.
Another artist on the other side is an artist named Ohelen, who recently performed at Colours of Ostrava, the biggest festival in Eastern Europe, and received good reviews. In particular, a collaboration performance with LEAF Yeh, an outstanding Taiwanese singer-songwriter, will be presented in Korea and Taiwan, which is meaningful to me. This is the first case of collaboration with director Peiti, and I hope there will be more opportunities for collaboration in the future.
Recently, flight tickets between Korea and Taiwan have become much cheaper. I think the younger generation is looking for a lot of both countries through travel. I also want to do various things while going to and from Taiwan more frequently. In that sense, I am grateful to curator Peiti for being a wonderful partner to me. And I pay my respects to Wind Music for their strong support.