Taiwanese Black Metal Band CHTHONIC Put Spin On The Country's Past

September 15, 2003

The controversial Taiwanese black metal band CHTHONIC have been criticized for mixing politics and music, and have even been prevented from performing in China after being labeled as "pro-independence musicians."

They extolled the virtues of Na Tao Ji, a tragic heroine of Taiwanese folklore, by singing her story in front of the Presidential Office on Sept. 6 when 150,000 people gathered at a rally to promote changing the country's name from the Republic of China to Taiwan.

After being chosen as the best band at the 14th Golden Melody Awards, the Mandarin-speaking world's biggest music award, on Aug. 8, they pronounced: "Thank you, my mother country, Taiwan."

Speaking to Taipei Times reporter Fiona Lu tried after a performance at a pro-Taiwan rally, lead singer Freddy Lin offered his take on the ideological criticism against CHTHONIC.

"We formed CHTHONIC when we were ready to accept and respond to disagreement from other people in music circles against our work," Lin said. "But it is inappropriate to label CHTHONIC as pro-independence, since we were only telling our audience stories of ancient Taiwanese culture and customs. We were already being criticized in the first year after CHTHONIC's formation.

"The earlier critics denounced our music as nothing but dreary cries and screams. Some others detested CHTHONIC and asked why we could sing softly and gently, but about such wretched subjects and with such desperation.

"The objections later became political when we made it clear that we are safeguarding our mother culture and the history of Taiwan, and that we believe it is unique from China.

"The reproaches reached a climax when we held the Say No to China's Annexation concert in 2000.

"I have to say that when these critics say things like 'Keep politics out of music', they are being immature. Those critics who are performers themselves could protest against CHTHONIC by hosting a concert on the theme of 'Say No to the Objection of China's Annexation.'

"As for the non-musicians, they blurred the meaning of separating politics from music when they criticized CHTHONIC in this way.

"The best way to remove political influence from the creation of music is to prevent politicians from manipulating the music industry, not prohibiting musicians singing about ideological issues.

"We learned that the former ruling KMT [Chinese Nationalist Party] shifted its focus on business investment from industries like banking to entertainment productions. This raised fears of political manipulation in the KMT-owned media.

"CHTHONIC also experienced a typical political intervention during an engagement with the Ministry of Culture of the Chinese government.

"A huge number of CHTHONIC fans in China had tried several times to invite us there for a concert. The request was eventually turned down by the Chinese culture ministry, who called us 'pro-independence musicians.'

"The Chinese culture ministry proclaimed that CHTHONIC was guilty of a pro-independence stance not by listening to our music, but based on our performing at pro-independence gala.

"But it is interesting to find that, because of this dispute, different perceptions arose among rock n' roll fans in different parts of China. We learned that fans in Beijing shut down any online discussion relating to CHTHONIC since we are 'renegades'." Read more.

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