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                                                                          Taiwan Campus Folk

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Taiwanese campus folk song, campus folk song, or campus folk rock (Chinese: 校園民歌; literally "schoolyard folk songs") is a genre of Taiwanese Music with its roots as student songs in the campuses of Taiwanese universities during the 1970s. The genre was highly popular from the mid-1970s to the early 1990. This genre of music became very popular in mainland China during the late 1990s and 2000s with the increased cultural exchanges between Taiwan and China during this period.

Campus folk rock was created by university age youth wishing to assert their own distinct cultural Chinese identities and "Sing our own songs." in the Chinese languages, taking the aspirations from the American folk music revival. The movement towards and popularization of this music is considered to be a societal reaction towards Taiwan's expulsion from United Nations in 1971.

The songs were composed through fusing instrumental and melodic elements from American folk rock, along with the expression and themes from Chinese folk music, both of which were familiar to the youth of the time. Songs from the genre are characterize as having a forward-looking, optimistic, simple, and youthfully naive feel, with acoustic guitar and piano as some of its most commonly used accompanying instruments.

                                                                  The Beginings

 Yang Hsien (楊弦) born in 1950, was the pioneer of the Chinese Folk Movement with his Modern Chinese Folk Songs (中國現代民歌集) in 1975.

On 6 June 1975, at the Taipei Zhongshan Hall, Yang Hsien held a concert, showcasing 21 songs of poetry set to music, attracting a group of young intellectuals to join the "write their own songs, sing their own song" boom. In September of the same year, these 21 songs were recorded by the Cultural Foundation of Chien-chuan on the aforementioned double album.

“Where are our own songs?” Li Shuangze asked the audience in a 1976 Western music concert at Tamkang University. “On my journeys to the Philippines, Taiwan, the US and Spain, I found that youngsters around the world drink Coca-cola and sing English songs. But where are our own songs?” This incident was later recorded as the Tamkang Event.

Li’s call to “sing our own songs” awakened his generation. The ripple effect came in a series of reports published in the Tamkang school magazine which stimulated a vibrant climate for song writing and gradually resulted in the campus folk song movement. Exchanges between students from different schools also helped to expand the scale of the movement.

Born in 1949, Li displayed talent in several art fields including painting, photography, singing, composition and writing. Courageous enough to challenge himself and his contemporaries, he died in an effort to save others from drowning in 1977.

Though his life was cut short, he produced one of the most noted songs in Taiwan’s history—Formosa. Li composed the music for the song while the lyrics were revised by Liang Jing-feng based on a poem by Chen Hsiu-hsi. Formosa was first performed by Yang Zhu-chun, a female folk song singer and political activist. It became a big hit after being performed by Hu Te-fu, an aboriginal singer.

Li’s other important works such as Old Drummer and Young China molded an image of new China, society, youth and Taiwan based on an awareness of land, history, society and tradition.    

Campus folk songs, or modern Chinese songs as some might term them, manifested a wide variety of themes in addition to Li’s nation-related motifs.

An analysis of folk song lyrics performed in 1981 revealed that family relationships and friendship topped all themes, appearing in 50.6% of all songs, followed by romance at 45.6% and impromptu third at 16.0%. This survey sampled albums released on the market from 1974 to 1980.  

The depiction of romance demonstrated the great discrepancy between campus folk songs and pop music. Terms like love, romance and addiction frequently appeared in the titles and lyrics of pop songs. Campus song writers on the other hand, tended to employ natural scenes to imply romance.

Some characteristics can be found in campus songs such as innocence, reality portrayals, country-associated themes, reflection on life through natural scenes, wilderness, wandering and living in privacy. These themes, presentation and ideology permeated the whole developing process of “campus songs.”

Most of these tunes displayed unrealistic tendencies. They were set in an isolated and imaginary space, distant from urban, main-stream culture and youth, and functioned as a place where listeners could release their emotions.

These students’ works required a channel to be heard and known, and the Golden Melody Awards offered such an opportunity. First held in 1977, these awards played a vital part in the campus folk song movement which created a certain music genre and introduced a number of singers to the audience. Some of them are still involved in creative work today.

In 1978, Seamount Records launched a similar initiative, and many students and amateur musicians had songs recorded during the next few years. There are various compilations available of these Seamount albums, including a very comprehensive 8 CD collection of some 130 songs in total. Some feature singers who made only one or two recordings before seeking a career outside of music. Others are taken from the early albums of Tsai Chin or Sarah Chen who had roots in or connections with Campus Folk.

 If Yang Hsien had been the Father of the Folk Song Movement, Ye Jiaxiu (叶佳修) would be regarded by many as the Saint. Ye Jiaxiu, born February 18, 1955, of Hakka heritage, became one of the most prominent of the Campus Folk Song artists with his evocative pastoral ballads. His Walking Barefoot on the Ridge (赤足走在田埂上) LP in 1979 was the first Chinese singer-songwriter album, taking Yang Hsien's initiative to the next stage.

His sincerity, modesty and positivity were amongst his many qualities. "For me, the common people are the most important material, I see them as writing horizons." Taking the bus was one of his greatest joys. He saw rural scenery as an opportunity “to gain a moment of calm and tranquility.” He valued the music of his day “Contemporary music scene is the most simple, the most sincere, kindest, most optimistic, the most joy and music” He saw creating music as integrating with the world of nature – an aesthetic musical fusion. His music was essentially pastoral music, evoking the beauty of his Taiwanese countryside which was was facing industrialisation on a grand scale like most of the world. As someone said of him “He found so many wonderful things cited in this imperfect world.” This included football, where he was captain of his University’s team.

Ye Jiaxiu had written a poem, printed in the college magazine, based on the love he felt for a fellow student, although they only had one date. This poem became "Wanderer’s Monologue”, perhaps the song that most defined the Campus Folk Song genre. Its heartfelt vocals and beautiful guitar-work made a lasting impact on me when I first heard the song. The lyrics make one feel that one truly is wandering the Taiwanese countryside as the 'knight of the road' does. 

The purity and directness of expression of "Wanderer’s Monologue” makes this pastoral ballad a classic of the genre. Although at heart, a song of lost or unrequited love, there are echoes of the tradition of another Wanderer's Monologue, an ancient, 115 line, Anglo-Saxon poem. The Wanderer, an ageing warrior, who roams the world seeking shelter and aid. In nature he finds no comfort. One also thinks of the Wandering Samurai tradition too. "Wanderer's Monologue" was included on the seminal Folk Style Series (1978 / seamount) 在民謠風第一輯.

As well as recording 4 albums, Ye Jiaxiu wrote songs for other Campus Folk artists such as Grandma's Penghu Bay, recorded by Pan Anbang. A song about Pan Anbang’s childhood growing up with his grandma. Missing After Breaking Up was beautifully sung by Sarah Chen with Yi Jiaxiu providing the most poignant electric guitarwork. He also made his own recording to the same guitarwork later. He wrote between 300 and 400 songs. Chyi Yu was the beneficiary of the wonderful and award-winning“Countryside Paths”. As quintessential as “Wanderer’s Monologue” in defining Taiwan Campus Folk.

He moved to Canada in 2001 and worked in other musical genres including rap, both teaching and performing. After 7 years, he has now returned to Taiwan. He is as vibrant a performer now as he was in his campus days. He attaches great importance to rap. "I will put my experience from the creation to the arranger, be able to pass on to the next generation.” He encourages everyone to create: "write down things every day, there will be a dream, I just want everyone to feel meaningful … my mission sense, on the one hand with the cultural past, on the one hand, to contact people to reflect on the meaning of life, add the element of life for them, let them live brilliant ... "