Lin Sheng Xiang

Lin Sheng Xiang

 Kaohsiung, Kaohsiung, TWN

Taiwanese singer/guitarist/songwriter Lin Sheng-Xiang used to be a member of the Labour Exchange Band before going solo


In spring 2009, Taiwanese Hakka singer-songwriter Lin Sheng Xiang released his third solo album Growing Up Wild, a collaboration with Japanese guitarist Ken Ohtake. The album¡¦s lyrics, written by Lin Sheng Xiang¡¦s longtime writing partner Zhong Yongfeng and by Lin himself, have as their central theme Hakka women and girls and their experiences growing up in a traditional culture in southern Taiwan. The music, composed by Sheng Xiang (he often goes by just his given name) and performed by him and Ken Ohtake, reflects Sheng Xiang¡¦s continually evolving and maturing musical vision, incorporating a variety of musical influences.

The Hakka are a minority group in Taiwan with a culture distinct from the Hoklo majority. When Sheng Xiang was growing up in Meinong in southern Taiwan, he was influenced by traditional Hakka mountain songs that he heard from his grandmother, and as a student he listened to Western folk and rock ¡¥n¡¦ roll. When he was a college student at Tamkang University in northern Taiwan, he formed his first band, Kuan-tsu [Guanzi] Music Pit, in which he was the lead vocalist and guitarist. The group became involved the fight against a government plan to build a dam in Meinong, writing several anti-dam protest songs and performing these and traditional Hakka songs around Taiwan.

In 1999, following some personnel changes, Kuan-tsu Music Pit changed its name to the Labor Exchange Band and began incorporating traditional instruments into their sound, including suona (a trumpet-like instrument) and Sheng Xiang¡¦s yueqin (sometimes called a ¡§moon guitar¡¨) and sanxian (a three-string guitar-like instrument). Sheng Xiang also began writing songs with activist and poet Zhong Yongfeng, the two of them collaborating on songs for the Labor Exchange Band¡¦s first album, Let¡¦s Sing Mountain Songs, for which Sheng Xiang won the Best Composer award and shared the Best Producer award in the traditional music category at the Golden Melody Awards. With the dam project finally suspended by the government, the group¡¦s second album, The Night March of the Chrysanthemums, focused more generally on the difficulties faced by Taiwan¡¦s farmers in the face of globalization. The album, released in 2001 to an enthusiastic critical response, won the group the Best Band award in the pop music category at the Golden Melody Awards, and was ranked 53 in a list of the top Taiwanese 100 albums from 1993 to 2005, chosen by a team of top artists and critics in the music industry. Also at this time, their record company, Trees Music, began organizing international performances for the Labor Exchange Band, which resulted in the group performing in major world music and folk festivals in Europe, as well as well-known music venues like the Paris jazz club New Morning.

In 2003, the Labor Exchange Band announced that it was splitting up, to the great sorrow of Taiwanese music fans and critics. However, their sadness was relieved by the news that Sheng Xiang and Zhong Yongfeng, the team responsible for most of the Labor Exchange Band¡¦s songs, would continue writing songs together. In 2004, Sheng Xiang formed a new group, Water3, and released the album Getting Dark, which dealt with the experiences of Hakka migrants from the countryside in adjusting to life in the cities. In this album, he expended his musical palate to incorporate different kinds of traditional Taiwanese sounds such as gua-a-hi (Taiwanese opera). The album received numerous nominations at the Golden Melody Awards, with Zhong Yongfeng winning Best Lyricist, Sheng Xiang and Water3 winning Best Band, and the album winning Best Hakka Album. Getting Dark also was ranked 43 in the above-mentioned list of the top 100 Taiwanese albums.

In 2005, Sheng Xiang toured Europe, playing at festivals such as TFF Rudolstadt in Germany, Riddu Riddu in Norway and Colours of Ostrava in the Czech Republic. He also performed at UC Berkeley in the US with Okinawan musician Hirayasu Takashi and Japanese guitarist Ken Ohtake, an experience which inspired the three of them to record music together. The following year, he released the album Planting Trees, on which his songwriting collaboration with Zhong Yongfeng was amply supported by Hirayasu and Ohtake¡¦s playing. The lyrics focused on the environment and rural life, and garnered more nominations at the Golden Melody Awards. Zhong Yongfeng won his second award for Best Lyricist, and Sheng Xiang won for Best Hakka Album and Best Hakka Singer, though he declined to
accept the awards because of he felt music shouldn¡¦t be categorized according to language.

Sheng Xiang feels that his latest album, Growing Up Wild, is his best yet. On the surface it seems simpler than his previous ones, with the music consisting of only his and Ken Ohtake¡¦s guitars, plus harmonica on a couple of tracks. However, the lack of other accompaniment is more than compensated for by the virtuosic guitar playing, using a wide var


Lin Sheng-xiang Featuring Ken Ohtake :Growing Up Wild(2009)

Lin Sheng-xiang Featuring Takashi Hirayasu , Ken Ohtake : Planting Trees (2006)

Sheng Xiang & Water 3: Getting Dark (2004)

Labor Exchange: The Night March of the Chrysanthemums (2001)

Labor Exchange: Let Us Sing the Mountain Songs (1999)

Set List

1. Growing up Wild
2. Let me Come Along
3. Don't Cry
4. Family Break-up
5. Mama, Don't be Afraid, Be Brave
6. Auntie
7. Back Home Again
8. The South
9. Kapok Flowers
10. Ask the South