A dive into what it means to be Taiwanese with the rock band Fire EX.
The News Lens
By: Rath Chien-Chi Wang, 破土 New Bloom
Progressive values appear to define and refine increasingly self-evident Taiwanese identity. This is a pattern apparent especially with those under 45, as most strongly expressed during the Sunflower Movement in March and April 2014. The movement received widespread support received from all ethnic groups across Taiwan, including both Han and aboriginal. This was also when Fire EX (滅火器), a rock band with humble beginnings at a high school in Taiwan’s second largest city, Kaohsiung, was first become widely known nationwide, with lead singer Sam Yang (楊大正) composing and writing the lyrics for what became the theme song of the movement, Island’s Sunrise (島嶼天光).
Island’s Sunrise hit Taiwan’s top charts, winning song of the year at the Golden Melody Awards. Fire EX was asked to perform Island’s Sunrise at Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) presidential inauguration ceremony in June 2017. This song is still sung by groups on the left spectrum at political events to represent the ongoing fight for civil rights, Taiwanese autonomy, national identity, and preserving its hard-won freedoms. Fire EX, although composed of both waisheng and bensheng members, sings almost exclusively in Taiwanese Hoklo, with the aim of helping preserve and continuing to foster Taiwan’s growing identity.
Sam’s own story represents that of many young people in Taiwan. Despite having grown up in a waisheng Han family, Sam is a staunch and vocal advocate for Taiwan’s autonomy, both in terms of creating a distinct national identity and political independence. He wrote Island’s Sunrise in protest against eroding Taiwan’s hard-won democratic freedoms and overreliance on China on the night the Kuomintang (KMT) undemocratically tried to pass the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) through the Legislative Yuan, which resulted in student activists storming the building. Sam mentions in interviews that there have indeed been difficult times with his parents, who are older generation waisheng, are pro-Chinese both in the cultural and national sense, and follow the narrative promoted by the KMT that the Republic of China (ROC) is the legitimate and cultural defender of China, including with regards to its “Greater China” national, political and cultural identity. [FULL STORY]