Lin Sheng Xiang
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Lin Sheng Xiang

Kaohsiung, Kaohsiung, Taiwan

Kaohsiung, Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter


This band has not uploaded any videos
This band has not uploaded any videos



"Taiwan Journey Part 2: Lin Sheng Xiang, The Woody Guthrie of Taiwan?"

Michal Shapiro

In 1999 on the southern tip of Taiwan, where the majority population of Hakka Chinese had settled, the government planned to build a huge dam. The Hakka farmers went to the capital city of Taipei to protest. The dam, they said, would destroy the ecosystem, and was a risky enterprise considering the earthquakes and landslides the area experiences. (I was there during an earthquake...not pleasant.) Lin Sheng Xiang, a Hakka from the village of Meinong, and pursuing a musical career near Taipei, became involved with the struggle to prevent the building of the dam. He moved back to his hometown in Meinong, and the Labor Exchange Band was formed, giving a musical voice to the movement, and the dam was never built. Although the Labor Exchange band is no more, Lin Sheng Xiang has continued to create thoughtful music along with lyricist Zhong Yongfeng. When I interviewed him in the bucolic south of Taiwan, he played a Hakka folksong, a charming song he wrote about his daughter, and a song (co written with Zhong Yongfen) from his latest CD,"Growing up Wild" the concept of which is songs about females. - Link TV, World Music Blog

"Lin Sheng-xiang: A musician planting seeds of thought"

At this year's Golden Melody Awards, local musician Lin Sheng-xiang took the stage to very publicly reject not one but two prizes at the music industry's most prestigious awards event for his recent album"Planting Trees".
Since that night, his "thanks, but no thanks" for Best Hakka Album and Best Hakka Singer have set the local media and music industry buzzing.
Lin is no stranger to making people talk. A decade earlier found him as one of the public faces of a social movement to ban construction of a dam in his hometown in southern Taiwan. Lin's songs of protest gave voice to the movement and propelled Lin himself to prominence on the local music scene, earning him a flood of loyal fans along the way.
Lin returns to his hometown of Meinung in Kaohsiung County this Sunday to prform at an annual "eco-awareness" event called the Yellow Butterfly Ceremony, and call on the government to give up plans for the dam once and for all.
Joining Lin on stage will be Ken Ohtake as they perform songs from their album "Planting Trees," a musical collaboration with artists from Taiwan, Japan and Okinawa. - The China Post

"Songs from the Soil--Lin Sheng-xiang"

When Lin Sheng-xiang won the Golden Melody awards for Best Hakka-language Album and Best Hakka Singer, he made the unprecedented move of refusing to accept. He was protesting the Golden Melodies' categorization of music by race and language. He had around 100 supporters in the audience who had come up from the primarily Hakka town Meinung. They held up banners reading "Support Taiwan's agricultural industries" out of support for Lin and to draw the government's attention to issues affecting farmers.

This is how Lin is: ever since his former band, Labor Exchange, started using music to show their opposition to a controversial Meinung dam project, he's dedicated himself to acting as the voice of the powerless farmer and worker. He's proven himself able to dig up, highlight, and even create issues. Though his lyrics are in Hakka, that hasn't stopped him from winning non-Hakka fans in Taiwan and abroad.

It's early morning in Pingtung County's Yenpu Township, and a light rain is falling through the muggy August air. An elderly couple and their thirtysomething son arrive at this pig farm hidden away off a small country road.

The bespectacled young man is dressed simply in a T-shirt and shorts, yet he gives off a bookish air. He considerately finds a place to the side for his parents to rest, then he expertly grabs a piglet from one pen and herds it into a larger one. The startled pigs scurry about, grunting and spraying waste. The young man is patient, and soon he's moved around 100 pigs.

"We're too old to move pigs--it's a good thing he's around to help," says his mother with a smile.

Breaking linguistic barriers

Feeding and catching pigs and cleaning their pens are common chores, but the young man tending to the pigs here is no ordinary farmer. He's Taiwan's most famous Hakka musician, Lin Sheng-xiang. He was once the leader of Labor Exchange, the acclaimed band known as "the farmers' mouthpiece." His music covers many styles, blending together traditional instruments, Hakka mountain songs and "eight-sound" music, folk, Western-style rock, and even Okinawan sanshin. His lyrics take as their backdrop life in Meinung, Kaohsiung County. He's been speaking out on behalf of disenfranchised farmers and laborers for years.

In October of last year, Lin released his album Planting Trees. The authoritative British folk and world music magazine fRoots featured it as a special recommendation, and the single "Planting Trees" was included on the free CD that comes with the magazine. In recent years, Lin has brought his music to the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Germany, America, and Norway, and earned fans around the world. In 2005, he played Germany's largest folk and world music festival, TFF Rudolstadt, and 10,000 fans went wild for his Hakka songs. The endless calls for an encore made organizers bend the format for him and allow him to play two more songs.

Documentary style

How does his music cross linguistic and cultural divides to move the hearts of audiences?

"Sheng-xiang is an artist who is always in the moment. He's always sincere and dedicated in his personality, in his life, and in his music," says Chung Shefong, Lin's friend of many years and head of record company Trees Music and Art.

Professor Ho Tung-hung of Fu Jen Catholic University's Department of Psychology, who studies the sociology of popular music, says that Lin is one of the few Taiwanese musicians whose works have an air of realism. "Realist music or literature is often geared to a specific group, depicting their lives, environment, and desires, and the pressures they face."

Ho points out that most of the pop songs in the Top 40 stick to fragmented themes of personal emotion like "I'm heartbroken," "I want," or "I love you" and can at best help people express themselves while singing karaoke. Lin's music, on the other hand, is inspired by his own life experiences and social observations, and that's why it can fire the imaginations of listeners. "Listening to his music is like watching a documentary," Ho says.

Discovering music

Lin, born in 1971 in a village called Chutouchiao in Kaohsiung County's Meinung Township, is a classic farm boy--his family runs a pig farm and grows bananas, papayas, and other fruits commonly grown in southern Taiwan.

In 1988 he left Meinung for Tainan to attend high school. Influenced by a friend, he began playing the guitar during the summer break after his freshman year. He ended up performing regularly at a restaurant. While studying traffic management at Tamkang University, he honed his musical talents. In 1992, while only a university freshman, Lin entered his song "Guanyin's Hometown," which describes the views of Tanshui and Mt. Kuanyin, in a university song contest. He won first prize and a prize for best lyrics. He then formed a well-received band with some other students. Among them were future Labor Exchange members Chen Kuan-yu and Chung Cheng-ta, as well as famed pr - Taiwan Panorama


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)



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