Desert in Bloom
CELEBRATED TAIWANESE SINGER-SONGWRITER Deserts Chang WILL GRACE HONG KONG WITH HER DULCET, EXPERIMENTAL TONES THIS MONTH AT CLOCKENFLAP
Her pure, soulful vocals, thought-provoking lyrics and indie-folk image have garnered Deserts Chang a reputation as Asia’s Patti Smith. This month, the Taiwanese singersongwriter and her band, Algae, serenade Hong Kong with their mellifluous tones at the Clockenflap music festival, which takes place from November 28 until 30 at West Kowloon Cultural District. Beautiful and anti-establishment, this alternative female voice has been composing music since she was 13 years old and has toured to London, Paris, Toronto, Vancouver, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and numerous cities in China. Last year Chang took home the three most coveted gongs at the Top Chinese Music Awards— China’s answer to the Grammys. The 33-year-old, who also plays guitar, won Best SingerSongwriter, Best Lyricist and Best Song Producer. No great artist is without controversy, however, and Chang isn’t afraid of courting it for causes about which she feels passionate. She recently brandished a Taiwanese national flag on stage during a performance in Manchester, England, provoking a social media storm from her mainland Chinese fans. Chang performs on November 30. CLOCKENFLAP.COM
YOU’RE OFTEN DESCRIBED AS THE PATTI SMITH OF CHINESE MUSIC. DO YOU IDENTIFY WITH THE COMPARISON TO THE AMERICAN MUSIC ICON?
No, I don’t. What I have done in my life so far really isn’t worth this description. Let’s just leave those beautiful people like Patti Smith alone.
LAST YEAR YOU GENERATED CONTROVERSY WHEN YOU HELD UP A TAIWANESE NATIONAL FLAG ON STAGE. WERE YOU SURPRISED BY HOW FIERY CHINESE FANS’ REACTIONS WERE?
It happened in an accidental way, but I can’t say I’m surprised about the reaction since [ Taiwanese people and mainland Chinese people] are brought up in two such different societies. I think this just reveals how important it is to realise that everyone is an individual, and we don’t always have to be defensive about the differences between us. I don’t feel sad about what happened. My audience always teaches me things in different ways, and I cherish this.
SOME CRITICS HAVE ACCUSED YOU OF POLITICISING MUSIC. DO YOU THINK MUSIC SHOULD BE POLITICAL OR SHOULD YOU BE ABLE TO EXPRESS YOURSELF POLITICALLY THROUGH YOUR MUSIC?
No, I don’t think music should be political. But perhaps I’ll ask another question: Why is it that music just shouldn’t talk about politics whatsoever, or else it becomes political? I think what makes music beautiful is that it shows everything about how we live and what we feel along the way. But I haven’t actually written anything overtly political, or to serve a political agenda.
SO WHAT DOES INSPIRE YOUR WRITING?
Pretty much everything that happens in my life— and the process of getting to know myself more from any given moment each day.
IS THERE ANY ONE ARTIST THAT HAS PARTICULARLY INFLUENCED YOU?
There really are too many to mention. Some have changed my life with just one song.
ARTIST WITH ATTITUDE
Songstress Deserts Chang; on stage with her band