In recent years, Taiwanese music has become more popular in the United States, with more artists performing both solo shows and taking part in big-name festivals.
Starting in 2016, the Taiwanese Waves showcase took place at Summerstage in Central Park, New York City. The performances ranged from Mandarin-language pop to modern takes on Indigenous music. Although the most recent showcase was in 2019, some of these artists have only grown in popularity since then. In addition, the range of artistic styles has begun to move past the Mandopop staples of Taiwanese music and is now highlighting the diverse cultures within Taiwan.
A-bao, an Indigenous (Paiwan) singer that took part in the 2019 showcase, sings almost exclusively in her native language of Paiwan. Paiwan is one of Taiwan’s Austronesian languages which, until recently, was banned. Meanwhile, the Kaohsiung-based Elephant Gym lists themselves on their Instagram as a “bass-driven, 3-piece math rock band”. Sunset Rollercoaster, playing in Coachella 2023, has lyrics mostly in English, which allows their audience of Taiwanese listeners to “have space to create their own interpretations”. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival takes place every year in Indio, California; often drawing crowds of more than 750,000.
While the pandemic limited in-person performances, South by Southwest (SXSW), an annual event that normally takes place in Austin, Texas, dedicated online sets with various artists titled “Taiwan Beats Showcase” in both 2021 and 2022. Notably, this was also organized with the support of Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture (MOC), specifically the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development, in an effort to highlight Taiwanese popular culture through a festival that attracted over 40,000 participants from over 112 countries in 2022.
Artists such as Elephant Gym and 9m88 took part in SXSW’s Taiwan Beats Showcase this year on March 14th, alongside indie band deca joins. 9m88 will also play in Tiger Den, a showcase specifically for artists of the Asian diaspora at SXSW, while playing a solo show in Brooklyn later that week.
These continued successes indicate a growing audience for Taiwanese and Asian music artists in America. Along with strong trade and investment relationships between the US and Taiwan, these music exchanges also speak to growing cultural ties.
Yumei Lin is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington, D.C. She is currently an undergraduate at Tufts University studying International Relations with a focus on Security Studies, as well as a minor in Economics.