KEN OHTAKE & FRIENDS
I Must Have Been There
The 'friends' of the Japanese guitarist, who has played with Okinawa's Takashi Hirayasu among others, are Taiwanese musicians, including Lin Sheng Xiang playing pipa (lute), yue qin (moon guitar), Finish musician Pekko Kappu on jouhikko (bowed instrument from Finland) plus accordion and bass. Really nice mix of Chinese and other styles, mostly laid back.
1. Looking Back, Looking Forward 2. Waves 3. In the Soundless Village 4. Cold Cold, Mama 5. When I Was Darkness 6. Let Me Flow 7. I Must Have Been There 8. It Snows 9. Improvisation 10. Moon Song 11. Reunion
LIN SHENG XIANG
The Land is My Study (Music Inspired by the Literature of Zhong Lihe)
Brilliant new album from Taiwan's Lin Sheng Xiang, (Labour Exchange Band) inspired by the literature of Zhong Lee (1915-1960) an author from Southern Taiwan and renowned Hakka writer. Beautifully performed on guitar and other stringed instruments with some rootsy elements and passionately sung. Comes in exquisite packaging and detailed English liner notes.
1. Let us Sing a Hill Song of Zhong Lihe 2. Little Sister, Come with Me 3. The Land is My Study 4. Rao Xinhua, The Mountain Sprite 5. Through Thick and Thin 6. Girl - Come Here and Save Me 7. Forest Fire 8. My Grandma from the Mountains 9. Bamboo Hat Hill Farm -Bonus track If the Dam Can Be Built Then Shit Can be Eaten.
LIN SHENG XIANG & KEN OHTAKE
Growing up Wild
Third solo album from Taiwanese Hakka singer songwriter, a collaboration with Japanese guitarist Ken Ohtake. Sheng Xiang grew up influenced by traditional Hakka (a minority group with a distinct culture) mountain songs, and became known as the singer and leader of the group Labour Exchange Band, who incorporated traditional instruments into their sound, won a number of awards and toured internationally. Sheng Xiang took up from where he left off with LEB, continuing his collaboration with lyricist Zhong Yongfeng, plus Okinawan Takashi Hirayasu and guitarist Ken Ohtake. Growing up Wild is a simple album, with just Ohtakes' and Sheng Xiang's guitar, harmonica and vocals, although the rhythms and influences range from Okinawa, Cuba and West Africa. Beautifully packaged in long digi-pack style with English translations of the lyrics.
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
Inka Mbing is from the Tayal ethnic group, one of Taiwan's major aboriginal tribes. After a major earthquake struck Taiwan in 1999, she formed a musical collective and recorded a live album to raise money for reconstruction of the Tayal mountain communities devastated by the earthquake. She began more to explore her Fayal roots, learning from the elders of her people. She discovered a variety of folk songs, which she developed in her own style. She has rearranged them, sometimes sings her own lyrics over traditional melodies, and sometimes sings traditional lyrics over her own melodies. On this superb album she is joined by a diverse group of musicians, including cellist Chen Chu-hui, wind instrumentalist Sangpuy Katatepan, plus Japanese guitarist Ken Ohtake (who has played with Takashi Hirayasu) and Indian percussionist Ramesh Shotham. Gaga is a sophisticated blend of musical styles, rooted in the Tayal traditional, with Inka Mbing's powerful vocals the most impressive sound of all. Comes in book size digipack with English liner notes.
1. Linnigisan na rgyax 2. Qwas mtglaw 3. qalang na kayal 4. Qwas plahang gong 5. Hongu Utax 6. Rangi na Tayal 7. Aki hmsw'a 8. Sinramat na rimuy 9. Linnglung ngasal mu 10. Soki na yutas 11. Ga-ga 12. Minkahul hngyaa'n na Papakwaqa
The Best of A-Mei
A-mei is an aboriginal Taiwanese pop singer.She is one of Taiwan's most famous pop singers, and has had a turbulent career, causing controversy along the way, especially with the government of mainland China and those who are against independence for Taiwan. In truth however, she is rather non-political. Her music is Mandarin pop, although she has fused elements of her Aboriginal heritage into some of her songs. This best of includes hits from her debut album in 1996 and beyond. In 2008 she performed in a Japanese version of Turandot and has won a sizeable Japanese following.
Lo Sirong is a female singer songwriter, who draws influence from her Hakka heritage, and the poetry of her father. She gives an intimate performance on acoustic guitar in an improvisational, dreamy style. She is accompanied by some Chinese instruments such as yehu (bowed stringed instrument) erhu (Chinese violin) as well as double bass, saxophone, cello, harmonica, percussion and occasional drums. Superbly recorded and lavishly packaged.
LIN SHENG-XIANG Featuring TAKASHI HIRAYASU & KEN OHTAKE
Taiwanese singer, guitarist songwriter Lin Sheng-Xiang used to be a member of the excellent Labour Exchange Band before turning solo. His second album has a simple and endearing sound, with Sheng-Xiang's strong melodies, acoustic guitar and singing accompanied by fellow acoustic guitarist from Japan Ken Ohtake and Okinawa's Takashi Hirayasu playing sanshin on many of the tracks. As with LEB, the words matter and the sumptuous booklet has full translations in both English and Japanese. Excellent recording, with a similar simplicity to Takashi Hirayasu's album with Bob Brozman, but with more of a singer/songwriter feel than traditional.
SHENG XIANG & WATER 3
Was £19.99. First solo album by the Labour Exchange Band's Sheng Xiang. Several years in the making, under the guidance of co-producers, Trees Music's Chung Shefong and lyricist Yongfeng, Sheng Xiang and Water 3 is, if anything, a step up on the LEB. Sheng's melodies are as strong and memorable as ever, and Yongfeng's lyrics as pertinent. He clearly believes, passionately, in whatever it is he is singing about, in his pretty much western singer songwriter style. Fortunately the exemplary liner notes and packaging comes with full translations, and are not songs of banal cliches or introverted observations, but of real issues affecting real people. Getting Dark is set around a character reflecting on the boom period of the 1980s, when many peasants and country people arrived in the cities seeking their slice of the economic miracle. As boom started to turn to bust, and the factories closed down (and opened on mainland China where the cheaper labour was) many lost their jobs. Ashamed to return home without fulfilling their earlier promise of new found wealth, these people are to be found roaming the streets on the outskirts of the cities. Sheng Xiang's acoustic guitar is augmented by Chinese moon guitar, plus the pipa, (ancient Chinese lute) the sanxian, (Chinese three stringed lute) and even it's Okinawan offspring, the sanshin, performed by Takashi Hirayasu on the album's final track. Harmonica and fretless bass add the western elements on an album that skillfully blends Chinese, Taiwanese and Western elements into a sound that has become a distinctive hallmark of Sheng Xiang.
BETEL NUTS BROTHERS
Hunters Who Lost Their Lands
Was £19.99. Betel Nuts Brothers are four brothers and a cousin who are Amis, a Taiwanese indigenous group. They are hunters who lost their lands and livelihood and adapted to an urban lifestyle. In order to preserve the Amis traditional culture and way of life they play their music and dance to protect the inheritance passed down from their ancestors. Their music and dances are joyous and uplifting, with guitars, congas, bamboo drums and a variety of voices and chanting. The beautiful packaging comes with English liner notes. A wonderful album.
LABOR EXCHANGE BAND
Let Us Sing Mountain Songs
The Labor Exchange Band are a rare beast in Taiwan. Hakka Chinese (one of the Chinese minority groups in Taiwan) who while influenced by western music, draw heavily on their own fascinating music traditions and add elements of other Chinese, Taiwanese opera and aboriginal music to create something accessible and ingenious. Whether traditional or their own compositions, the songs stand up well, drawing the listener in with a passion universally understood even if the words are not. The main accompaniment is a guitar (albeit a Chinese moon one, or 'yuqin') and most songs follow a western chord progression, but it's the added Chinese flat drums and most of all, the Souna Reed horn that give their sound that unique edge.'Let Us Sing Mountain Songs' marks not only their debut but is the origin of the band itself. Vocalist and composer, Lin Shenghsiang is from Meinung, a village in the mountainous county of Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan. While living in Taipei he heard about some older residents from the village who had come to the capital, Taipei, to protest the building of a dam that would have destroyed their livelihood in agriculture and their property. The old people sang traditional mountain songs in protest, and Lin, at first largely ignorant of the situation, formed a band to support the Meinung anti-dam movement. The Labor Exchange Band reworked those traditional songs, ("Here Below the Meinung Mountains"), wrote their own, ("Anti-Dam song"), and sung others which originated from the aboriginal people who inhabit the same area, ( "Half Mountain Song"). Another, "So Let's Sing Mountain Songs" includes a recording of a speech by the organizer of the protesters, Chung Hsiumei. And the story has a happy ending too; plans for the dam were abandoned when funds to build it were cut from the budget.
LABOR EXCHANGE BAND
The Night March of The Chrysanthemums
LEB's second album tackles larger themes than their debut, is slightly more sophisticated with a better variety of songs and sounds and hangs together brilliantly. It follows the life story of Ah-Cheng, from his life as a farmer in the village of Meinung, travelling along the artery road of the county, (the opening track "County Road 184") and his motorcycle journeys along it, ("My Old 125 cc Motorcycle"). He seeks his fortune in the city as an industrial worker and loses it during the subsequent bursting of the economic bubble. We learn of his alienation from the local marriage market and searching for a wife in southeast Asia (Ah-Cheng Goes to Southeast Asia) his first baby (Ah-Fen's Carrying a Baby) and return to his life as a farmer. Along the way, globalization, privatization of state owned enterprises, conditions of laborers, and the bankruptcy of agricultural villages are all tackled. It's in an epic story and an epic album. Gentle and simple but extremely powerful and uplifting, it features a variety of voices, mostly female sometimes in chorus and more instruments than before. And if you're wondering about that title. On returning to his village, with limited agricultural possibilities, Ah-Cheng grew chrysanthemums. At night, when he turned on sunlamps in the fields, he was reminded of the evening roll call of a night march.
The World of Difang
Double CD compilation album by Taiwan's most famous aborigine singer, who shot to fame after he was sampled by Deep Forest. CD 1 includes more backing tracks by Deep Forest over Difang's vocals, in a kind of 'healing' music melange, and others in collaboration with a Taiwanese producer and folk singer. CD 2 is entirely acappella, mostly of unreleased material.
Voice of Life - Difang (CD + DVD)
Difang (1921-2002) is the Taiwanese Amis singer, who brought aboriginal Taiwanese music to the world. Their 'Elders Drinking Song' was recorded by the French National Education Ministry without their knowledge during a tour in 1988 who then sold the recording to EMI. EMI allowed the German group Enigma to use the recording as a sample track for their song Return to Innocence, which was used to promote the 1996 Olympic games. After signing to Magic Stone records in Taiwan, EMI were sued, the claim eventually settled out of court. This is a best of album compiled from the four albums Difang recorded for Magic Stone, including a collaboration with Dan Lacksman of Deep Forest that mixed his voice with electronica. Includes seven unreleased tracks and comes with 2 track DVD.
CD (original recording) 1. Visiting Song 2. Lakedun 3. Love Song 4. Working Song 5. Widow 6. Pick up Mud Snail 7. Sworn Friends 8. Lin San-Sy's Song 9. Fully Laden with Riches 10. Elders Drinking Song (Voice + Kara) 11. Visiting Song 12. Elders Drinking Song DVD. 1. Visiting Song 2. Elders Drinking Song
The Taiwanese aboriginal singer at centre of Enigma 'sampling' controversy, teams up with part of Deep Forest.
Taiwanese female aborignal vocalist singing mostly western influenced acoustic folk songs, very popular in Taiwan.
DAVID DARLING & THE WULU BUNUN
Beautiful album of the Wulu Bunun singers, an indigenous people of Taiwan, together with American cello player David Darling. Darling's sympathetic accompaniment adds to the already deeply atmospheric voices. Click Read about for the full story, written by Paul Fisher for fRoots.
A MOVING SOUND
Songs Beyond Words
Based in Taiwan, A Moving Sound primarily feature singer Mia Hsieh and American Scott Prairie. They have gained a good reputation overseas, have toured in the US, and this is their second album. More of a focus on Asian music than their previous album, but with the same cutting edge and contemporary sound.
"Based out of Taiwan, A Moving Sound offers up a unique and exciting new development in the progression of both traditional and contemporary Chinese music. A Moving Sound's music explores the outer regions of the avant-garde while remaining firmly rooted in the rich, earthy aesthetic of ancient ethnic music and dance from
the Far East. The band utilizes traditional Chinese instruments and melodic themes but combines them with modern compositional concepts and spirited experimentation to produce music that is joyous, evocative and enchanting."
New York Public Theater.
A MOVING SOUND
Based in Taipei, Taiwan, A Moving Sound, are a multinational group made up of Taiwanese singer Mia Hsieh, American Scott Prairie on French horn, bass, drums and vocals together with a Chinese erhu (vertically held bowed violin) player, a Belgian guitarist and a Brazilian percussionist. Their music is clearly rooted in Chinese tradition, but what sets this CD apart from the usual East / West collaboration, are the African and Middle Eastern influences. True to the group's name, the music is constantly surprising and moving in different directions, cleverly avoiding new age cliches. Instead, A Moving Sound have an experimental edge that keeps the listener engaged and leaves you feeling you've been on a magical mystery tour. Compelling stuff.
Compilation of legendary Taiwanese singer, who died in 1995. Recordings date from the 1970s through to the 90s, sung in Japanese,where she was also a star. Styles range from ballads in enka and pop style to a few more upbeat songs. One of a few Asian stars to be genuinely popular throughout the region including non-Chinese speaking countries. Sixteen songs and sixty six minutes of music. Click here to email for availability
Teresa Teng 1
Teresa Teng (1953 - 1995) was one of a few singers to have become a star in many countries in East Asia. She was born in Taiwan, but her popularity spead particularly to Hong Kong as well as mainland China. She sang in Mandarin, Taiwanese Min-nan, Cantonese, Japanese and English.The first in a series of Teresa Teng compilations is of her earliest recordings. After her singing debut in 1967 in Taiwan she based herself in Hong Kong recording for Life Records in 1971. This is her first album. Click here to email for availability
Teresa Teng 2
This is Teresa Teng's second album for Life Records. She is developing her own style of singing, changing from the young pop idle into a more mature singer. Click here to email for availability
Teresa Teng 3
Third album released in late 1971. Teresa Teng is developing into a singer with a bigger range and scale. Click here to email for availability
Slightly bizarre yet utterly enjoyable re-release of some of Teresa Teng's greatest hits given a 70s disco remix. Teresa Teng was one of East Asia's most popular female singers, loved throughout the Chinese speaking world and Japan. Click here to email for availability
In The Mood for Love - Soundtrack
Wonderful soundtrack album that includes old Shanghai tunes,tradtional Chinese music, an English version of the Indonesian classic Bengawan Solo sung by Rebecca Pan, some above average atmospheric movie theme music and even Nat King Cole singing Quizas, Quizas, Quizas. Something for everyone, and all sounding great. Click here to email for availability
Dreams - Greatest Hits
Faye Wong compilation that includes 'Dream Person' - the cover of the Cranberries' Dream from the film Chungking Express.
First Japanese released album for 6 years. From orchestral backing to pop and rock, still the best female singer in Hong Kong. Click here to email for availability
Was £19.99. The Beijing born singer has become a massive star throughout Chinese speaking Asia, especially Hong Kong and Taiwan as well as Japan and has a following in the west too. She sings rock and pop, influenced by the Cranberries and the Cocteau Twins, has sold millions of records, and still holds onto her credibility and popularity in the fickle pop world, perhaps because she hides from media attention. She is also an actress, with an acclaimed role in Wong Kar-Wai's Chungking Express, and sung the theme tune to Zhang Yimou's film, Hero. This is possibly her best album, released in 1994. Includes a cover of the Cranberries which became a big hit.
Sandy Lam Best
From the mid 1980s, Hong Kong's Sandy Lam became a Cantopop star, popular especially in HK, Taiwan and Japan. She has a graceful style compared to many of the current Cantopop stars, and this 3 CD set of 32 tracks is her definitive compilation including all her hits and some rarer tracks.
1. Shang Hen 2. You Huo De Jie 3. Wei Ni Wo Shou Leng Feng Chui 4. Zhe Xie Nei Xie 5. Ye Tai Hei / Hei Version 6. Keng Qiang Mei Gui 7. Ting Shuo Ai Ching Hui Lai Kuo 8. Wakattell 9. Bu Xu Ku 10. Let Go 11. Ying Zi Qing Ren 12. You Don`t Bring Me Flowers
1. Zou Zai Da Jie De Nu Zi 2. Dangai Yi Cheng Wangshi / Farewell To My Concubine 3. Ai Bu Le Duo Jiu 4. Feng Zheng 5. Rang Wo Shi 6. You Suo Wei 7. Li You 8. Wo Xin Reng Zai 9. I Swear 10. What A Wonderful World 11. (Was It) Only Just A Dream
1. Qing Ren De Yan Lei 2. 3. Bu Bi Zai Hu Wo Shi Shui 4. Jiu Hou De Xin Sheng 5. Xi Huan Ni Xian Zai De Yang Zi 6. Ji Mo Nan Nai 7. Ling Wu 8. Meng Xing Shi Fen 9. Wen