Negotiating spaces: Mid-1990s queer, female fan culture and the popularization of Japanese popular music in German-speaking European countries — IAPMS online workshop vol.10

We are pleased to host the Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies Group (IAPMS) Online Workshop vol.10. This event is free and open to public, but we ask you to register for participation. Please register by filling out the form with your name and email address. The event information (with Zoom link) will be sent to your email two day before and a reminder will be sent to you one hour before the event.

Date: 11th November (Thu)
Time: 20:00-22:00 (Korea/Japan) / 19:00-21:00 pm (China) / 12:00-14:00 pm (Germany/Austria)
Venue: ZOOM

(Please use the time zone converter to calculate the event time in your location:

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To register for the event, please visit the link and sign up:

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Negotiating spaces: Mid-1990s queer, female fan culture and the popularization of Japanese popular music in German-speaking European countries

Anita Drexler (Nichibunken)

Since the last half of the 20th century, there have been numerous attempts to establish Japanese artists within the music market of German speaking European countries. However, none of them were even remotely as successful as the visual kei-led J-music boom that defined much of the German music industry in the years around the turn of the millennium.

If we want to understand the reasons for this success, we cannot ignore the fan culture that revolved around the wide popularization of anime and manga during the 1990s. In my presentation I’m going to analyse German anime magazines from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, which served as a main vehicle for the formation of a new – that is young, female and disproportionally queer – fanbase.

I argue that not only was this stratum of fans crucial for the success of Japanese popular music in German-speaking European countries for the years to come, but that from their negotiation of a cultural space within a pre-existing fanscape, we can deepen our understanding of what it is that makes an imported musical genre an important one.

In my opinion, knowing more about the mechanism of how cultural spaces are (re)-negotiated by fans can help to further understanding of how specific trends – like City Pop – are able to gain global traction.


Anita Drexler received her BA and MA in Japanese studies (with minors in Media studies and Musicology) from the University of Vienna. Her research interests include Japanese popular music from the 1970s – 1990s, music journalism and transcultural musical transfers. She is currently a research student at the Nichibunken in Kyōto, Japan.

Respondent: Oliver Seibt (University of Amsterdam)

[CFP] Final Reminder — IASPM XXI 2022 in Daegu


This is a gentle reminder that it is 5 days before the deadline for call for proposals on 31 October 2021. Please visit our online submission site and follow the instructions below to submit a proposal or to confirm / revise your previously accepted one.


  • For first-time submission
  1. Visit our online submission page at the conference website
  2. Create your account and log in
  3. Click “Template Download” on the online submission page
  4. Follow the instructions in the template and fill in the downloaded form
  5. Choose the type of submission appropriate to you (Individual, Panel, Film/Video) and click the button
  6. Fill out all required information on the submission page and complete the submission
  • For accepted Individual or film/video submission
  1. Visit conference website and log in
  2. Click on My Page in the upper right corner of the website
  3. Click on the Individual or Film/Video tab of the category you previously submitted
  4. Check the notice marked in red, and click the ‘Review Your Proposal’ button on the righthand side
  5. Review the information about your previous submission on the page, and go to the bottom where you will see the “Keep My Proposal” and “Modify This Proposal” button. Click on the button that is appropriate, and follow the process.

Please note that your submission will undergo a new round of review process if changes were made.

  • For accepted panel submission
  • Follow the instructions in “For accepted individual or film/video submission” above only choose to enter “Panel” on My Page.
  • Permission to access the online submission page is reserved for panel organizers. Please contact your panel organizer to request revision or replacement of your proposal if you wish so.
  • All panel organizers MUST confirm the existing proposal electronically on our online submission system unless there is a request for revision or replacement from your panel members. In the latter case, you can make changes to the proposals of your panel members. Again, however, this would invalidate your accepted status and your panel proposal will be sent to Academic Committee for review.

If you wish to make changes to your personal details such as affiliation, email, et cetera on the online submission system, please do not do that yourself but contact IASPM XXI secretariat at

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to direct those to IASPM XXI secretariat.

Many thanks,

IASPM XXI 2022 Organizing Committee

[CfP] Second Round of CfP for IASPM XXI 2022 in Daegu

On behalf of the IASPM XXI 2022 Organizing Committee, we are pleased to invite you to the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) to be held at Daegu, South Korea on 5-9 July 2022. As you all know, IASPM 2021 originally to be held in July 2021 was postponed for 12 months. Due to this postponement, we are reopening Call for Presentations (CFP) for those who missed the chance to apply first time around and those who wish to revise or replace their original proposals.

Having been held every two years since 1981, IASPM is now one of world’s most prestigious international conferences of popular music studies. It will be a fascinating opportunity for participants to share the latest information and knowledge in the diverse areas of popular music.

For the conference, a wide range of current topics in Climates of Popular Music will be discussed in the forms of speeches, panel sessions, and poster sessions. You may refer to our e-Newsletter and Website for more information including keynote speakers, topics, the host city, and conference proceedings.

The IASPM XXI 2022 will be held in a hybrid format combining virtual and face-to-face conference sessions even when there is a dramatic improvement in the situation with regards to international travel. This is a decision based not only on the current pandemic situation but also on our concern about climate change. Details of how the conference is organized is to be announced later.

Please note that all of your proposals and papers must be submitted through our online submission page. Through this platform, we hope we provided an easy and convenient way for applicants to participate.

If your proposal was already accepted by the IASPM last year, you do not have to re-submit it. Your status as being accepted will be maintained. However, you will need to confirm your intent to maintain your presentation via online submission page.

You can also revise or replace your previous abstract accepted if you would like to. However, in this case your new or updated abstract will be considered a new submission and reviewed by the IASPM committee again.

Additionally, panel participants should consult with the panel organizer to make changes to their individual abstract for the panel. It is up to the panel organizers to confirm panel participants’ intention to continue to join the panel and to reorganize the panel if necessary.

Thank you!

IASPM XXI 2022_Key dates
1) Call for Abstract: September 1~October 31, 2021
2) Notification of Review Result: January 31, 2022
3) Early-bird Registration: March 1~April 31, 2022
4) Standard Registration: May 1~June 30, 2022

For further details, please visit the IASPM XXI 2022 official website.

Keewoong Lee. Hyunjoon Shin
IASPM XXI Organising Committee

Ondo Goes On: the Folk, the Folky and the Festive in Modern Japan — Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies (IAPMS) Online Workshop vol.9

We are pleased to host the Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies Group (IAPMS) Online Workshop vol.9. To participate in this online event, please register by filling out the form with your name and email address. The event information will be sent to your email after the registration. A reminder email will also be sent two day before as well as one hour before the event.

Registration form:

The event will be held on 13th August (Fri):

15:00-17:00m (Korea/Japan) / 14:00-16:00 pm (China)  

(Please use the time zone converter to calculate the event time in your location:

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IAPMS online workshop vol.9

Title: Ondo Goes On: the Folk, the Folky and the Festive in Modern Japan

Speaker: Shuhei Hosokawa

Moderator: Yusuke Wajima

Date: 13th August (Fri.)

Time: 15:00-17:00m (Korea/Japan) / 14:00-16:00 pm (China)

Venue: ZOOM

Abstract: Ondo Goes On: the Folk, the Folky and the Festive in Modern Japan

Ondo音頭 is a genre of dance music invented and disseminated since the 1930s in Japan. Although its magnetism is rarely mentioned in the history of popular music, the ondo pieces are so dominant in the summer obon festivals and other community-based events that even the majority of J-pop fans can “tune in” on this vernacular beat.  This paper will outline the musical, industrial and social background of ondo music launching by “Tokyo Ondo” (1933). Over a million copies of record, rumor says, were sold.

The rhythmic pattern of “Tokyo Ondo” omes from geisha party music which is accompanied by shamisen and small taiko drums (kotsuzumi). Unlike their performance indoors for selected audience, ondo is typically played outdoors for the open public. In the center of circle of dancing mass, one sets up a platform for large taiko (and dancers) which is performed with the commercial recordings played loudly through the speakers. It is what the ethnomusicologist Charles Keil called “live-and-mediated performance” (like karaoke).

Astonished by the massive craze, some critics observed it as a “safety valve” against the nationwide tension caused by the warfare in Manchuria. Their sober view, however, did not affect the collective enthusiasm overwhelming beyond the geographical (not national-ethnic) boundaries (in Manchuria, Korea, Taiwan, and the Nikkei immigration communities). Similar ondo pieces were released every summer but they could not sweep out “Tokyo Ondo.” While the state control being fortified under the warfare, the gatherings from below were shrinked or prohibited till 1945. 

During the Occupation period, the obon festivals were generally suspended due to their “old Japan” image. However, it slowly revived in the 1950s on the local level, while “Tokyo Olympic Games Ondo” (1964) stimulated the first nationwide boom after the war. It was followed in 1965 by “Oba Q Ondo,” originating from the TV anime, Obake no Q-taro, sung by the voice actress of Oba Q. The liaison with anime was recaptured in 1981 by “Arare-chan Ondo,” recorded by the voice actress of Arare-chan, a character from Dr. Slump. All of these sing happy-go-lucky words and the choreography is easy even for kids. Children’s participation is essential for the organizers of events.

In 2014, Otomo Yoshihide, known for his underground acts, composed “Eejanaika Ondo” for supporting the people in the nuclear-contaminated zones in Fukushima (“eejanaika” refers to the mass upheaval against the Tokugawa reign around the 1850s-60s just before the Meiji Restauration). Ondo turns to be a meeting point between the mass entertainment and political message.

In today’s obon gatherings, the above-noted pieces are played repeatedly with some local variants. Ondo music is neither oriented to Top 40 or to niche market nor classified as J-pop but lingers beneath the surface of consumption society as a unique expression of vernacularism.

Speaker: Shuhei Hosokawa

Professor Emeritus at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies (Kyoto). He is author of Sentiment, Language and the Arts. Japanese-Brazilian Herit­age (Brill, 2019) and coeditor (with Toru Mitsui) of Karaoke around the World: Global Technology Local Singing (Routledge, 1998). His interest ranges from sound technology and music industry to history of popular music. Visiting professor at the University of Michigan (1995), the University of Changchun (2002, 2003), the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (2004, 2006) and the University of Melbourne (2010). 

Music Streaming Platforms and Self-Releasing Musicians in China — IAPMS online workshop vol.8

We are pleased to host the Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies Group (IAPMS) Online Workshop vol.8. To participate in this online event, please register by filling out the form with your name and email address. The event information will be sent to your email after the registration. A reminder email will also be sent two day before as well as one hour before the event.

Registration form:

The event will be held on 10 June (Thu): 8:00-10:00pm (Korea/Japan) / 7:00-9:00 pm (China)  

(Please use the time zone converter to calculate the event time in your location:

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Music Streaming Platforms and Self-Releasing Musicians in China
IAPMS online workshop vol.8

Name:  Shuwen QU
Affiliation: Jinan University
Moderator: Jian XIAO

10 June (Thu): 8:00-10:00 (Korea/Japan) / 7:00-9:00 (China)  

Biography: Qu Shuwen is the Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the Jinan University. She has a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies from The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include cultural studies, popular music, music technology and communication. Now she is working on the research projects of the platformization of the music industry and its impacts on musical experiences. Her contacts:

Abstract: A major development in the music industries in recent years has been the rise of ‘unsigned’ or ‘self-releasing’ musicians (sometimes problematically called ‘DIY musicians’ or ‘independent musicians’) who upload music directly to music streaming platforms (MSPs). What’s unique about self-releasing in China is that Chinese MSPs have sought to incorporate such self-releasing musicians into their platform eco-systems, which is not the case in the west. This talk, first traces the evolution of ‘indie discourse’ in China so as to clarify its meaning in streaming time, that is, the celebration of an entrepreneurial and copyright-oriented ethos, which becomes the ideological foundation of self-releasing services. Then, the discussion analyzes why and how the self-releasing has been incorporated into MSPs as core assets, and to what extent cultural autonomy of self-releasing services is affected by platform mechanisms. 

Stay Underground? Punk in China, Indonesia and the Big Band: Inter-Asia Pop Online Workshop #7

We are pleased to host the seventh Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies Group (IAPMS or Inter-Asia Pop) Online Workshop. On Thursday, April 15, Dr. Jian Xiao will give a talk on punk in China and Indonesia.

The event is free. but you need to register in advance:

We will send you a reminder with the instruction to the video conference twice: one day before and one hour before the event. Please find more detail below.

Stay underground? Punk in China, Indonesia and The Big Band

Guest speaker: Jian XIAO (Zhejiang University)

Biography: Jian Xiao (Ph.D. Loughborough University, UK) is the Associate Professor in the school of Media and International Culture, Zhejiang University. She has published in International Journal of CommunicationJournal of Popular Music StudiesCultural Critique, European Journal of Cultural Studies, Chinese Journal of Communication, Space and Culture, Journalism Practice and so on. She has also published a monograph, “Punk Culture in Contemporary China” with Palgrave Macmillan. Her research interest is focused on urban politics, new media, and cultural studies.

Abstract: In this paper, I consider local, translocal, virtual punk scenes as “a form of networking”. The talk compares two sets of relationships—first, the Chinese punk scene and the Indonesian punk scene, and second, the pre-internet punk scene spatialised through different venues such as gigs, festivals, zines, and the platformised scene as organised via the online music show The Big Band—to discuss the transformation from an underground network to a platformised communicative network. The development of a punk scene in China can be described as “a form of cosmopolitanism urbanism” due to its involvement with global connections. While the underground network is shaped by the global punk community, I regard its relevant spatial practices as a form of authenticity that infuse local tradition into modernity, and its underground nature as an asset since it brings authenticity and the cultural capital that goes with it. It is argued that that the process of reconfiguring an underground network into a platformised network is based on a process of commercialisation that transforms the bands’ cultural capital based in authenticity into economic capital.

KL Sing Song: alternative voices in the Kuala Lumpur singer songwriter circuit (2005 – 2009) by Azmyl Yusof (Sunway University Malaysia): Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies (IAPMS) Online Workshop vol.06

Register here:

  • If you are a non-member of IAPMS and would like to register for this Zoom event, please fill out the form with your name, affiliation, and email address. The Zoom link information will be sent to you one day before the event.
  • If you are already a member of IAPMS and subscribing the mailing list, you don’t have to register for this event. Simply, have access to the event via the link provided in the email from the mailing list.

Date: Thursday, February 4th, 2021 
Time: 8PM (UTC+9) 
8PM (Korea/Japan) 7PM (Malaysia/China/Hong Kong/ Taiwan /Singapore/Perth)  

KL Sing Song: alternative voices in the Kuala Lumpur singer songwriter circuit (2005 – 2009)

Azmyl Yusof (Sunway University Malaysia)

This talk explores the emergence of the Kuala Lumpur singer songwriter circuit by charting the development of the annual singer songwriter showcase KL Sing Song. The showcase, which ended its run at it sixth installment (from 2005 to 2009) serves as a case study on the fostering of communal spirit and networking amongst like-minded arts practitioners. Taking a self-reflexive approach, it also considers the parallel developments of other related ‘scenes’, primarily the underground and indie rock, from which some of the KL-based singer songwriters featured in the showcase also participated. Taking cue from the DIY (do-it-yourself) punk approach ethos, the event emphasizes the use of only original compositions and has featured a variety of singer songwriters (from award winning globetrotting performers to upcoming youngsters to seasoned street buskers) with minimal instrumental accompaniment (itself an agent of mobility). In contrast to the more visible and ‘hip’ indie rock scene (which tended to be detached from contemporary politics), the singer songwriter scene has also provided an alternate cultural space for its participants (including for some who have moved on to commercial success) by being friendly to political communication and satire, with its notable support by the alternative online media, non-governmental organizations, and non-commercial venues and art spaces in the Klang Valley, Malaysia. Through a combination of journalistic method of data collection based on the presenter’s professional background and insider network access, this talk hopes to offer greater insight into scene politics and the agency of artists outside of the overemphasized paradigm of the ‘music industry’ and locate practices that were prevalent before the arrival of social media platforms. The talk will also share the development of the singer songwriter circuit in the past decade right up to the COVID-19 pandemic which essentially halted all music-making activities, affecting the entire performing arts community’s livelihood while also revealing the structural shortcomings and severe lack of political will by Malaysian music industry players and policy makers.

Azmyl Yusof is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Arts, Sunway University Malaysia and a recording and touring underground singer songwriter. More popularly known as his stage name Azmyl Yunor, his research interest parallels his artistic practice which includes music subcultures and the cultural politics of identity in Malaysia. A gig organizer and the co-founder of several seminal punk and experimental rock bands, he has been recording and producing albums independently since 1997 as a solo artist and band member and continues to collaborate with filmmakers on projects. A weekly columnist for an online publication and a regular guest and host on radio shows, he is known as one of the few critical voices of his generation in the local performing arts community. His most notable publication was a chapter on Malaysian music subcultures, Malay youths, and mediated moral panics in Media, Culture and Society in Malaysia (2010). With his observational eye on the cultural politics of contemporary Malaysia that sets him apart from peers, his recent album ‘John Bangi Blues’ is a rootsy rock n’ roll romp dedicated to his district of Bangi south of the capital (launched in September 2020) which has been hailed by music magazine NME as a “blistering commentary on the ‘Middle Malaysia’ experience”.

Book Review: Eva Tsai, Tung-hung Ho and Miaoju Jian (eds), Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music by Hyunjoon Shin


Reviewed by: Hyunjoon Shin, Sungkonghoe University, Korea

The original link is at 

Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music-文化評論| 誠品網路書店

Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music is part of the now well-established Routledge Global Popular Music series. Like its predecessors, it is a multi-authored volume: the fourteenth in total, and the third among popular music in Asia after Made in Japan (Mitsui 2014) and Made in Korea (Shin and Lee 2017). Its three editors, all based in the Taiwanese academy, have actively joined international conferences, especially those of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music (IASPM) and Inter-Asia Popular Music Studies (IAPMS). The book represents an effort by these editors to gather authors from a range of disciplinary specializations, admirably including some who have hitherto published primarily in Chinese, and is thus a product of painstaking collaborative work rather than just a collection of essays.

As a non-Taiwanese East Asian, I had assumed that popular songs made in Taiwan, along with those made in Hong Kong, were “Chinese pop music”. While the latter used Cantonese, a regional variant of Chinese, popular songs from Taiwan used Mandarin, the standard Chinese, which I (mis)perceived as “authentic” Chinese popular songs. Especially, I was aware of numerous songs sung by Deng Lijun (aka Teresa Teng), a “persistent figure of the Asian diva” (Weintraub and Barendregt 2017: 2), which had crossed national borders and not only symbolized but also defined what Chinese pop music had been. Yet it did not take me long to realize that such a set of assumptions was far from correct. Then I underwent a confused process of understanding the identity of Taiwan. It is a complex riddle. According to my memo before writing this review, Taiwan is adorable, unique, multilingual, complicated, troubled and cool at the same time. Is such a combination possible? The answer is yes, because Taiwan is currently “a state without nation” (73) according to one of the authors/editors. Taiwan is a multi-layered cultural formation that does not allow easy understanding. Compare this to the stance of Marc Moskowitz whose pioneering monograph on Taiwanese pop music presents it within a wider frame as a “Chinese pop music”, as shown in his book title (Moskowitz 2010).

Thus, it is hard work to define, delineate and clarify “Taiwanese popular music” in a focused and simple way. Even in a volume that is beautifully and consistently edited, different authors use different wordings at different places: “Taiwanese popular music”, “Taiwan popular music”, “popular music in Taiwan” and “Taiwanese language (Taiyu) popular music”. Rather than indicating a shortcoming, the nuances stemming from those contrasting wordings deserve close attention. While popular music made in Japan is predominantly sung in Japanese and popular music from Korea in Korean language, popular music made in Taiwan is not so simply delineated. Indeed, Taiwanese popular music or popular music made in Taiwan offers a more intriguing case than any in the region or beyond.

The co-editors of the volume tackle this complex point in their co-written introduction, which is followed by a tracing of three different trajectories of popular music in Taiwan. Chapter 1 is not only the most comprehensive and authoritative but also original and controversial. Here, Tung-Hong Ho’s conceptualization of “nativism” is original enough to deconstruct the misconception that Taiwanese popular music is all about Mandarin pop ballads. As someone who has used the term alter-nativism elsewhere (Ho, Cheng and Luo 2015), his desire would not be so different from the desire of popular music artists, industry workers and cultural intermediaries in Taiwan: achieving both native and alternative (as also reprised in the Afterword in the form of a fascinating interview with Lim Giong).

Chapters 2 and 3 focus on Mandarin popular music and on aboriginal popular music respectively. To those who only have had basic knowledge about popular music in the early Cold War period, these two chapters on the extreme poles of Taiwanese popular music are both surprising and intriguing. If spatial relocation is the key process in the former, temporal reinvention is dominant in the latter.

Tracing the trajectories does not stop discussion on identities, as is shown by four chapters in Part II: “Identities”. Contrary to my expectation that the part will deal with the identities associated with social identities such as gender, class or generation, the focus is still centred around “Taiwanese identities”, whether national or ethnic. Chapters 4 and 7 (by C. S. Stone Shih and Andrew Jones, respectively) analyse the identities of subaltern Taiwanese from case studies on specific artists and their products: Hsu Shih, a vanguard composer of Taiyu ballads in the 1960s, and the prominent Hakka folk rock band Labor Exchange Band in the 1990–2000s respectively. Both chapters show that modern popular music never does away with traditions and roots, no matter how much they are transformed, refracted and even distorted. I perceive the different writing styles of the two authors as relating to the contrasting temporalities and spatialities that each interrogates.

Chapters 5 and 6 (by Yu-Yuan Huang and Meng Tze Chu, respectively) tackle the enduring power of the cultural hegemons, Japan and America, respectively. The practices of “covering” Japanese popular music and Anglo-American popular music are assessed by paying attention to specific actors and social conditions. Avoiding abstract theories, each chapter has the strong merit of providing thick and factual description based on rich data. Some readers will be discontent with the rather uncritical and positive usage of the concept of “hybridization” in the former and the ambiguous or ambivalent evaluation of the concept of “Americanization” in the latter. To my belief, however, they contribute to advancing further discussion on the subjects.

Part III: “Issues” consists of essays on contemporary genres written by scholars who are well-versed in cultural studies: rock (Chapter 8, Chi-Chung Wang), EDM (Chapter 9, Eva Tsai) and hip-hop (Chapter 10, Hao-Li Lin). These cases as well as studies on them have the flavour of so-called globalization which has been believed to make everything unstable, mobile and disarticulated. Rather than providing a general description of the music genres and styles, each author takes his or her own specific focus and expands from it toward the bigger picture. By doing that, unexpected encounters are highlighted: the legacy of Confucianist ethic in amateur rock (sub)culture, inter-Asia (Taiwan-Thailand) connections in electronic dance pop, and intelligent and non-misogynic hip-hop masculinity. All of these case studies are based on detailed ethnographies that challenge any easy generalization on the subjects concerned.

The remaining four chapters in Part IV: “Interactions and the Coda” wrestle with complex contexts that sometimes go beyond the local scale: the export of popular music associated with the state agenda (Chapter 11, Yu-Peng Lin and Hui-Ju Tsai), audience reception of the artist Jay Chou and his style (Chapter 12, Chen-Yu Lin), the myth of the border-crossing appeal of the national diva Teresa Teng (Chapter 13, Chen-Ching Cheng) and international or translocal networking of indie music on a regional scale (Chapter 14, Miaoju Jian). All these subjects and themes are too recent, pending and ongoing to be critically evaluated by this reviewer; yet, what is certain is that the authors bravely put maximal efforts into raising relevant questions. There is no doubt that these subjects will be heatedly debated in the future.

What I found unexpected here is a lack of specific chapters providing general description of conventional subjects and topics: the recording industry, broadcasting media, live music venues, digital-mobile platforms and so on. I am one of those who badly needs them! In East Asia, basic knowledge which may be taken for granted in one country can be totally alien in another, and there can be significant gaps in coverage in research in English as compared to that in the national language of each nation, leaving outsiders struggling to contextualize the more detailed content. The editors may have thought that such introductory description is not their job, or were perhaps afraid that such content could make their volume rather plain and banal. I nevertheless hope that they will consider providing such coverage somewhere else, if one edited volume cannot deal with everything.

Another unexpected detail is that some generic vocabularies are not precisely defined and their usages are not necessarily consistent throughout the volume. One example is the usage of the categories of “song”, “ballad” and “tune”. I am still not sure whether these three are sharply differentiated or largely interchangeable. If the former is the case, it would have been better to write down the Romanized term for each of them. In that sense, it would also have been helpful for the editors to trace or analyse the principles, rules and customs of genre division in Taiwan, which are hinted at in the beautiful mapping out of topics given in the volume’s Fig. 0.1 (14).

A last unexpected point is that some artists do not receive their rightful places in the volume. I will pick up only two artists, Luo Dayou (aka Lo Tayu, b. 1954) and Chen Qizhen (aka Cheer Chen, b. 1975). These two singer-songwriters redefined Mandarin popular music made in Taiwan during the 1980s and the 2000s respectively, and have achieved the status of cultural icons. If I may use the jargon of fandom, Luo is the “Godfather” (jiaofu) and Chen the “Goddess” (nüshen). They also show that even once-independent artists can sell out either to industry or to nation. It is in this sense that Luo Dayou is compared to Bob Dylan according to Guy (2011: 192). Thus, they should have been under critical analysis rather than mentioned in passing.

In that sense, this book performs its own cultural politics. Rather than focusing on Taiwan as the production centre for Mandarin popular music, especially during the 1980–90s, it sheds more light on multiple undercurrents produced during and after that period. Thus, it offers a serious effort at preventing Taiwan from being absorbed into China. It is true that everything made in Taiwan cannot be reduced to that made in China. The exchanges between the island and the mainland, more exactly the “continent”, which have been and will be going on would be another job beyond the scope of this book.

During my fieldwork, I sensed that different genres of Taiwanese popular music were flowing out of Taiwan. A Taiwanese pop-rock band was on a “world tour” all over the planet, old Taiyu ballads played in a Shanghai taxi, and a young amateur singer in Hong Kong sang indie pop from Taiwan on the street. All in all, Taiwanese has become more than just an identity. It has become a brand that generates diverse style. It is made in Taiwan and flows to the world. I am sure that this will be the next subject of study by these authors and other researchers. Taiwanese popular music is neither overtly global nor merely local. Thus, the book makes its readers ask questions as to how far concepts like hybridization, glocalization and transculturation are standing the test of time.

All the points above never undermine any single part of Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music. It is a groundbreaking book and highly recommended for scholars and students interested in Taiwanese popular music, and in East Asian popular music broadly. Political scientist and Taiwan specialist Shelley Rigger posits Taiwan both as a small island and global powerhouse (Rigger 2013): there is no doubt that Taiwan matters, and understanding Taiwanese popular music is of significant help in grasping the complexities of popular music on this planet much more generally.


Guy, Nancy. 2011. “Review of Cries of Joy, Songs of Sorrow: Chinese Pop Music and Its Cultural Connotations by Marc L. Moskowitz”. Perfect Beat 12(2): 191–93.

Ho, Tung-Hung, Hui-Hua Cheng and Yue-Quan Luo, eds. 2015. Zaoyin fantu [Altering Nativism: Sound Culture in Postwar Taiwan]. Taipei: Walkers Cultural Enterprise.

Mitsui, Toru, ed. 2014. Made in Japan: Studies in Popular Music. New York: Routledge.

Moskowitz, Marc L. 2010. Cries of Joy, Songs of Sorrow: Chinese Pop Music and Its Cultural Connotations. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Rigger, Shelley. 2013. Why Taiwan Matters: Small Island, Global Powerhouse. Plymouth, UK: Rowman and Littlefield.

Shin, Hyunjoon, and Seung-Ah Lee, eds. 2017. Made in Korea: Studies in Popular Music. New York: Routledge.

Weintraub, Andrew N., and Bart Barendregt. 2017. “Re-Vamping Asia: Women, Music, and Modernity in Comparative Perspective”. In Vamping the Stage: Female Voices of Asian Modernities, edited by Andrew N. Weintraub and Bart Barendregt, 1–39. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Book Review: Eva Tsai, Tung-hung Ho and Miaoju Jian (eds), Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music by Yiu Fai Chow

Book Review: Eva Tsai, Tung-hung Ho and Miaoju Jian (eds), Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music

First Published August 5, 2020 Book Review

Yiu Fai Chow

Creative Commons Attribution, Non Commercial 4.0 License

Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular MusicEva Tsai, Tung-hung Ho & Miaoju Jian (eds), Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music. New York, NY; London, England: Routledge, 2020. xix + 260 pp, with a selected bibliography: ISBN 9780815360155 (hbk, £88); 9780815360179 (pbk, £26.39); 978351119146 (ebk, £26.39).

This anthology is a sumptuous and ambitious project. It is sumptuous because the contributors offer readers a unique occasion to understand Taiwanese popular music, along an expansive time line (from the late 1890s to 2019), across an unusual musical diversity (whether in terms of what we usually understand as genres, or pop defined linguistically or cultural-historically), and informed by a wide range of disciplines (media and communication studies, sociology, anthropology, history, literature, East Asian studies and ethnomusicology). It is ambitious because the editors are not content with a sumptuous collection, or, in their words, ‘the sum of Mandarin pop, Hokkien/Hoklo pop, Hakka pop, and indigenous pop’ (p. 1); they intervene and ‘highlight certain smaller, more interstitial narratives that put these dominant historical interpretations in perspectives’ (p. 5). In other words, Made in Taiwan is not preoccupied with defining what a certain kind of popular music is or should be; rather, it is intent on breaking open hardened pop histories in order to afford more academic contemplation and empirical curiosity, ultimately to release more energy and liveliness from popular music itself. We see the editors’ mission in the 15 chapters or studies that follow their poignantly formulated Introduction.

The main body of the book is divided into the following four sections: Trajectories, Identities, Issues, and Interactions. The three chapters under Trajectories zoom in on the formative years of Taiwanese popular music, the decades following the Second World War, albeit with different perspectives. Tung-hung Ho’s opening chapter examines the intricate connections between the rise of nativism and the emergence of Taiwanese pop, with a critical reflection on the pitfalls of nativism and a proposal of what he calls ‘alternative nativism’. Szu-wei Chen’s chapter recuperates the productive encounter of two professionals – the prolific composer Chou Lan-ping and the pioneering entrepreneur Liao Chien-yuan, to argue against the dominant view that Taiwan in the 1950s was only borrowing from neighbouring centres (Shanghai, Hong Kong) and never itself a site of original music production. The following chapter by Kuo-chao Huang foregrounds indigenous music, particularly in the form of ‘Mountain Songs’ and tracks its development in the 1960s and 1970s to underline its often neglected, or ignored, importance to the development of Taiwanese popular music as a whole. The second section, as its title Identities suggests, collects four chapters dedicated to exploring the relationship between identities and social and musical practices. The chapters by C.S. Stone Shih and Yu-yuan Huang concern Taiyu ballads. While the former is a case study of composer Hsu Shih and his significance, the latter focuses on Taiyu covers of Japanese songs and dissects processes of cultural hybridization. Turning from Japanese influence to Anglo-American pop-rock, Meng Tze Chu talks to aging lovers and music practitioners and weave a life-affirming inquiry from their collective memories of the rock scene and the Cold War period. Andrew Jones, in his chapter on Hakka folk rock, unfolds the complexity of ethnic, class and musical identities through the music of Labor Exchange Band.

The third section Issues covers three pop genres in Taiwan since the late 1990s. A vivid instance of how locatedness functions to produce knowledge on popular music, Chi-Chung Wang’s chapter studies the relationship between elite high school practices and the development of rock culture in Taiwan. Informed by feminist deconstruction, Eva Tsai maps Hsieh Jin-yen’s transformation from Taiyu singer to EDM diva, teasing out its subversive potentials. Continuing the gender problematic, Lin Hao-li considers the possibility of ‘alternative masculinity’ among a group of educated, middle-class male rappers in Taiwan. The final section Interactions brings readers to the latest development in Taiwanese popular music. The first chapter, by Yu-peng Lin and Hui-ju Tsai, enters the field of cultural policy, and examines government support to promote Taiwan’s indie music abroad. Turning to one of Taiwan’s most profitable musical exports, Jay Chou, Chen-yu Lin focuses on his China Wind songs and discusses the issue of Chineseness by way of Chinese audiences’ reception of Chou’s music. The final chapter, by Chen-Ching Cheng, ends the book proper, very appropriately, with ‘the biggest Mandarin pop star in history’ (p. 170) – Teresa Teng – and an analysis of her stardom in the nationalistic context.

I wrote ‘book proper’ earlier, as following these four sections are two more chapters. Miaoju Jian’s chapter, as Coda, explores further what is going on right now in Taiwan’s music scene; she presents three paths through which indie musicians may reach audience outside Taiwan: global Mandopop market, East Asian DIY networks, and translocal entrepreneurial promoters. The final chapter of the book, modestly presented as an afterword, is a conversation between the three editors and veteran practitioner Lim Giong. Perhaps, this last choice may serve as a trigger to offer some form of criticism – as a book review is obliged to – to this highly engaging, informative and political anthology. Namely, the bulk of the book remains dedicated to the past. As someone with vested interest – both personal and professional – in music, I long to read more about what is going on, what future we can envisage, how do streaming and other forms of technological developments impact on Taiwanese popular music, what are younger generations of fans ‘prosuming’? I am also not very sure what the section titles add; would it be better to organize the book somewhat mundanely according to themes or chronology? Finally, a very minor sigh: it would be helpful to add cited names and titles in Chinese, for those who may find it difficult to recognize them in ‘English’ renditions. All in all, Made in Taiwan is a must read for anyone interested in Taiwan, Taiwanese popular music and popular music at large. For the richness of musical genres, case studies and academic disciplines included in the anthology, it is relevant to scholars operating in a wide range of fields. It should also be a good textbook for courses on popular music, globalization and area studies. The selected bibliography on popular music in Taiwan is very useful.Yiu Fai Chow
Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong