Sep 30, 2016

    Jody Chiang's retirement 'ended the best era of Minnan pop'

    WHEN Jody Chiang, now 55, delivered her finale at the last of her farewell concerts last year in Taiwan's Kaohsiung city, some saw that as the final curtain call for Minnan pop.

    That is certainly an exaggeration, for there are still many Taiwanese singers who are magnetic in the way they present songs composed in their native Minnan tongue or southern Fujian dialect.

    One name is Wu Bai - only that he is identified more as a rock than a Minnan pop singer, unlike Chiang, who is called the Queen of Taiwanese Music.

    Yet, it is undeniable that Minnan pop has already seen its boom days, especially when current hot names in Taiwan, such as Jay Chou and Jolin Tsai, are apparently not taken with the dialect-based genre.

    That is not surprising, as Minnan pop has always had a rustic (and some would say tacky) image, which makes it an "uncool" choice to the youth.

    It is often associated with the working class and the country folk, unlike Cantopop, which has an urban feel, its native soil being Hong Kong.

    But before the influx of mainstream Western music genres such as R&B and hip hop into Taiwan, Minnan pop had struck a chord in many Taiwanese hearts, holding its ground against the more popular Mandopop.

    But it did not have the flexibility to absorb new ingredients when Taiwan became completely open to the world in the 1990s.

    Current pro-independence legislator Freddy Lim, 40, is an acclaimed heavy metal singer, but his Minnan compositions have too much political overtones to have a steady appeal in the market.

    "Jody's songs were unique because they transcended all the political divides of Taiwan and evoked the deepest sentiment of every one - be it a native or someone of mainland origin," noted sociologist Lee Ming-tsung.

    "Jody also gave the Minnan pop a Mandopop feel, widening its appeal to non-Taiwanese," said a music arranger.

    "Her retirement ended the best era of Minnan pop."