Activist Artists and Bands

Activist Artists and Bands

A number of independent bands have gained a significant audience among Taiwanese youth activists, given their songs about social issues

A number of independent bands have come to create and perform music regarding social issues, as a result of which they have gained a significant audience among Taiwanese youth activists. Oftentimes these bands come to play at demonstrations, something which was a particularly prominent feature of the weekly 4-5-6 Movement anti-nuclear demonstration. These include a number of genres, ranging from heavy metal to hip hop to electronica to folk music. The most famous activist bands may be hip hop group Kou Chou Ching (拷秋勤)/Community Service (勞動服務), an ever-present feature at demonstrations, and the heavy metal band Chthonic (閃靈), whose frontman Freddy Lim (林昶佐) was a prominent participant in the Sunflower Movement. 

Other activist bands included ensembles with long histories in participating in Taiwanese social movements, such as the labor-oriented and Taiwanese independence-focused LTK Commune (濁水溪公社), indie rock bands Fire EX (滅火器), Sorry Youth (拍謝少年), or Hakka folk singer Lin Shengxiang (林生祥) and his band. The Anti-Nuclear Electronic Music Front (電音反核陣線), a speaker truck that played electronic music at anti-nuclear demonstrations, is another example of an activist musical performance at Taiwanese protest. The total list of activist bands is unaccountable. Fire EX’s song produced for the Sunflower Movement, “Island’s Sunrise” (島嶼天光), later became iconic and Sorry Youth’s band name ultimately provided the name for Ko Wen-Je’s “Go! Youth!” campaign.

Kou Chou Ching performing at an anti-nuclear rally. Photo credit: 拷秋勤 Kou Chou Ching

Fire EX and Lin Shengxiang later performed at Tsai Ing-Wen’s presidential inauguration in 2016 and “Island’s Sunrise” won “Best Song” in the 2016 Golden Melody Awards, something which was cut from broadcasts of the award ceremony in China and Singapore. Many independent music albums were also produced to raise funds for social causes, such as the No Nukes! Long Play! (不核作 – 臺灣獨立音樂反核輯) album which was largely a compilation of the best hits of independent, social activist groups, or the I Love Nuclear album that featured some of Taiwan’s most prominent electronic music artists and whose proceeds were donated to the GCAA. Another album in a similar vein, as an expression of the anti-nuclear movement, was the I Love Nuclear (我愛核子能 !? ) electronic music album produced in 2012, which included contributions from prominent electronic music artist Betty Apple (鄭宜蘋). Independent bands active in the Untouchables’ Liberation Area would later form the collective Trapped Citizen (愁城).

Activist bands became crucial in cementing ties among Taiwanese youth activism as a form of “subculture”, seeing as youth activists would be listening to the same music, attending the same live performances at the same activist venues, wearing the same activist clothing. Live performances by activist bands led to activist-oriented performances which would be a gathering for all of the Taiwanese youth activist scene, as well as activist-oriented music festivals. Examples included concerts held to celebrate the release of No Nukes! Long Play!, the Gongsheng Music Festival, the largest 228 commemoration event in Taiwan, and, much later on, the Inland Rock rock festival. 

Later on, after the Sunflower Movement, a Sunflower Movement-themed album was released. This was created by raising over in crowdfunding 262,972 NTD on FlyingV.


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Photo credit: Fire EX performing Island’s Sunrise at the Legislative Yuan encampment/Fire EX 滅火器