Fan Fare

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Taiwan’s old-school KMT gives voters its new rap

December 22, 2009

taiwanTaiwan’s government, run by the old-guard Nationalist Party, has turned a bit more youthful in recent days, using rap music to head off fears at home that it may sell out to political rival Beijing during tense talks this week. (Click here for more about the talks).

“The Republic of China (Taiwan) is a sovereign independent nation,” the fast-paced, video-enhanced lyrics begin. “Twenty-three million citizens will decide its fate.”

Another video bangs to the words “Take down the missiles” — a slap at China’s military buildup believed to be aimed at the self-ruled island. (You can watch the videos here.)

The party, better known as the KMT and once ruled by famed 20th century dictator Chiang Kai-shek, is better known for a more straightforward approach to public relations and seldom does publicity drives at the street level. But it has been grilled over publicity snafus this year that cost it points during local mid-term elections on Dec. 5 (Read about that here)

With its new raps, the KMT puts itself onstage with the grassroots-dependent main opposition party, which emerged from underground in the 1980s after decades of one-party Nationalist rule. When the China-hostile Democratic Progressive Party controlled the presidency from 2000 to 2008, it worked with Taiwan’s best known speed rocker, Freddy Lim, to promote a bid for U.N. membership overseas while former Government Information Office minister Shieh Jhy-wey put out a politically charged rap CD that he promoted through a Taipei youth center. Other Taiwan rappers, such as English teacher Chang Jui-chuan, tend to favor political opposition causes.

Rap, while not mainstream in Taiwan, symbolizes youthful fashion and the island’s links to Los Angeles, a rap music center teeming with successful Taiwanese immigrants.

Will the 30-second and 90-second rap tracks on the government Mainland Affairs Council website win fans? Maybe not, due to the lack of sustained publicity and big-name artists. (A council publicist didn’t even know who did the tracks) But it’s a start. “The Democratic Progressive Party’s use of media has been more flexible. It grasps mass culture and even minor culture,” said George Hou, a lecturer at I-Shou University in Taiwan. “KMT publicity has always been making adjustments. But the question to ask is whether the rap music teaches us anything.”

A lot of rap’s fans would say, “yes.”

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