It’s been over 100 years since Taiwan’s musicians started recording their music. From their first gramophone record, they’ve moved through many recording formats and decades’ worth of fashions, both foreign and local. They’ve also weathered years of censorship to arrive in an era of free expression. Many people in Taiwan can point you to the famous songs and singers of the past, and tell you which songs were once banned. But the details are often fuzzy. What was the first Taiwanese record? How did the stars live and perform? And why were certain songs banned but not others?
I’ve wanted to learn more about the history of recorded music in Taiwan since stumbling on a piece of that history in RTI’s CD library. It’s a re-release of classic songs from the 1930’s. If you’ve heard this program before, you’ve heard many tracks from this CD already. But to really understand these songs and the world that made them, we need the help of an expert. Huang Yu-yuan is just the person for the job. He is a researcher at the National Museum of Taiwan History who’s made Taiwan’s recorded music a focus of his work. Over the next three weeks, he’ll share his deep knowledge of the subject with us, telling us about the classic hits, about recording in the past, and about why some old songs are still among Taiwan’s best loved today.