When Taipei becomes home

I read an interesting article this week. It was a commentary article published on a Taiwanese online media, and the story was about how rock singer Wu Bai deals with his hometown nostalgia in his Taiwanese songs.

Wu Bai and his band China Blue have released three Taiwanese albums in their 25 years of music career. The first one Lonely Tree, Lonely Bird (樹枝孤鳥) – was published in 1998 and won him Golden Melody Awards’ (金曲獎) Best Album Taiwanese. The second one was Double-Faced Man (雙面人), released in 2005 and won him GMA Best Male Vocalist Taiwanese award. His third Taiwanese album – Hibiscus (釘子花) – was published in December 2016, and again won him GMA Best Album Taiwanese award.

Needless to say, this is an achievement unseen among vocalists who sing Taiwanese songs. It is hard to imagine if any young Taiwanese musicians could ever outshine such achievement – you simply have to publish four Taiwanese albums and win GMA award for each of them before you could claim that you have defeated Wu Bai in this sense.

Wu Bai is a guitarist who grew up in Chiayi City, a southwestern city in Taiwan. In his Lonely Tree, Lonely Bird album, he deals with his nostalgic feelings for Chiayi in the song Back to Hometown (返去故鄉), which he sings:

Both my feet stood here, my blood, my tears are shed on this soil.
Both my feet stood here, this is where my soul is, although I still feel lonely. Nobody could get to hurt me, but nobody could get to hurt me.
(我的雙腳站在這 我的鮮血 我的目屎 隴藏在這個土腳
我的雙腳站在這 這有我的靈魂 雖然我猶原是感覺孤單
沒人會凍震動著我 但是沒人會凍震動著我)

In his second Taiwanese album, writer Lu Mei-chin (transliterated) commented that Wu Bai actually started to embrace Taipei as his home. Such observation was solidly supported by A Southerner in Taipei City (下港人在台北市):

I am a southerner in Taipei City, the always-shining Taipei City.
Day and night I prepare my own meals, and I eat while watching TV.
I’d take a plane and go home for new year, otherwise I’d be stuck to death in massive traffic jams.
But my life is very comfortable, and everything is so convenient.
(我是下港人在台北市 五光十色的台北市
早晚三餐攏靠自己 每天吃飯配電視
過年返去著坐飛機 若沒塞車塞要死
但是生活是真舒適 什麼代誌攏真便利)

In his third Taiwanese album, writer Lu Mei-chin points out that Wu Bai sees Taipei as his home in this song Tearful Night Ride (熱淚暗班車):

On the outside it was surrounded by dark night view,
And I saw my reflection in the bus window.
Am I returning – when I move forward,
Or I am really returning right now.
(
外口攏予黑色包圍
我乾焦看到窗仔的家己
到底進前是真正欲返去
或是這馬才是真正欲返去)

From my point of view, ‘return’ has double meaning for Wu Bai. He returns to Chiayi to visit his family, and returns to Taipei to carry on with his work. 

The same perhaps applies to many more migrants who seek greener pasture elsewhere – you always return to your place of birth for holidays, and return to you adopted city for work.

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