Taike rock and its discontent
Abstract As popular music is an important means of expression and representation, it is important to consider the social forces that give rise to it and the various extents of these influences. This paper explores generic and discursive practices that have been labelled 'taike rock' in Taiwan. In recent years, 'taike rock', a generic term brought into use by music industry insiders, journalists and entertainment media, has triggered animated debate. The disputed term tai-ke, literally means 'Taiwanese guest,' but in its earliest and original form, as used by those post-1949 mainland Chinese arriving in Taiwan with the KMT regime, the term connoted ethnic discrimination towards native Taiwanese and was used specifically to articulate perceptions of their unsophisticated outlook and behaviour. Recently, however, the commercial forces of the music industry have re-appropriated the term tai-ke to create 'taike rock', thereby ascribing new meanings and triggering controversy. In this paper, the phenomenon of taike rock is explored in order to discover the extent to which its newly ascribed meaning renders obsolete the old political and cultural antagonisms between native Taiwanese and 'Mainlanders' (i.e. post-1949 immigrants from the Chinese mainland), especially as the trend attracts commercial and media attention. In the process of this examination, the taike phenomenon is then considered to be musically embodied in taike rock, the generic practice of which has given rise to its contested nature. Next, the discursive and performative aspects of taike rock are finally evaluated by looking at a general protest against the corporation Neutron Innovation's attempt to trademark the term 'tai-ke'. In discussing this anti-trademark campaign, this paper concludes by bringing up critical issues of cultural identity and creativity in popular music in the face of corporate monopolisation of intellectual property rights.
Keywords: Taike rock; Taiwan's ethnic politics; music genre and performance; intellectual property
Ho Tunghung is an assistant professor in the Psychology Department of Fu-Jen Catholic University in Taiwan. He received his PhD degree from the Sociology Department of Lancaster University, UK, for the dissertation The Social Formation of Mandarin Popular Music Industry in Taiwan. His research interests include independent music, cultural politics, cultural industries and policies. Outside of academic life, he is a freelance music critic and is part-owner of an indie live house in Taipei.