The Music of Taiwan

Did you know the haunting chant in Enigma’s “Return of the Innocence” was originally recorded by an aboriginal Taiwanese couple? Neither did I.

An inside look at Taiwan’s music industry.


“Return of the Innocence” was a very popular song worldwide. The song, created by Enigma, is an exact representation of the aboriginal culture of Taiwan. In fact, the song’s haunting chant belongs to an old Taiwanese couple.

The popular New Age band from Germany sampled the voices of an elderly Amis couple, Guo Yingnan and Guo Xiuzhu, without their knowledge, according to “World Music: Latin & North America, Caribbean, India, Asia and Pacific,” a book written by Simon Broughton and Mark Ellingham. The couple was later compensated in an out-of-court decision in 1999, five years after the song was an international success.

However, despite the song’s controversy, it gave the world a taste of Taiwanese aboriginal music. Modern Taiwanese music, however, is heavily influenced by the West, as well as other countries such as China and Malaysia.

Locals often sing ballads of popular Taiwanese singers Teresa Teng and Faye Wong in KTVs, private medium-sized rooms with karaoke equipment used for social outings.

Teresa Teng was a very popular singer who died in 1995 of an asthma attack, during a trip to Thailand. The pop icon gave many Chinese communists headaches with the pro-democratic messages in her songs. However, the Asian public admired her greatly for her heart and spirit.

A white statue was built at her mountainside tomb on Jinbao Mountain, Taipei County. Her clothes can also be found on display with her music playing in the background.

Teng’s music is still extremely popular today in Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong and some parts of Mainland China. Faye Wong, a very popular singer of today’s Taiwanese pop music, idolized Teresa Teng. She even released a tribute album.

Chinese native Faye Wong’s popularity soars through Asia and is considered the most distinguished female singer in Chinese music history. The singer has a large fan base; the media in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China call her tiānhou(diva or goddess), while her Japanese fans call her “Diva of Asia.”

Jay Chou, another Taiwanese singer, is popular in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Taiwan, and among Chinese-Americans in the United States. He mixes R&B and rap, combining both Chinese and Western music styles. The song “Dad I Am Back” touches on domestic violence, “Rice Fields” mentions eco-awareness, and “Wounds of War” speaks on the destructiveness of war.

Other popular Taiwanese singers and bands include eVonne, Cyndi Wang Xin Ling, Chen Chi Chen (Cheer Chen), Energy, and 5566. Taiwanese pop culture has influenced other Chinese-speaking countries such as Malaysia and Singapore. iT!

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