Taiwanese Artists Strike a Chord with ‘South by Southwest’ Organizers

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by James Holloway
Taiwanese experimental folk band Prairie/WWWW performing at Nanhai Art Gallery in California [Image: Un’Woods Xiu Bh’ee]

Six Taiwanese musical artists have been invited to perform at Austin, Texas’s ‘South by Southwest’ (SXSW) festival. Their inclusion presents an opportunity for both artists and audiences to gain a more global perspective on the nature and performance of music.

SXSW, a collection of conferences and festivals focused on interactive technologies, film, and music, boasts an impressive attendance of over 421,900 people annually. The music festival alone features over 2000 performers, from 63 different countries.

Among these performers are Taiwanese artists Van Ness Wu, Sangpuy, Dwagie, Prairie/WWWW, PoeTek, and Sonia Calico, with musical styles ranging from electronic music to hip hop and pop music. On twitter, Prairie/WWWW announced they were “very excited” to be playing at the renowned music festival.

For some artists, such as Van Ness Wu, the connection to America long predates the festival. The singer, who has also made a name for himself in acting and directing, was born in Santa Monica, California and lived in Newport Beach before moving to Taiwan.   

Since the festival’s inception, organizers have placed an emphasis on cultural and artistic diversity, not only hosting foreign artists but conducting seminars and workshops designed to encourage discussion on cultural issues. This year the festival will be hosting its annual “Asians and the Music Biz” session, a forum described as a “meet up for those with a common interest or origin in Asia's geographic, ethnic and cultural diaspora.” Another, entitled “Singapore: The Digital Capital of Asia,” will focus on the South East Asian country’s expanding technology market.

The music festival is hosting over 40 other artists from the Asia Pacific region, with the largest number hailing from either South Korea or Japan, two countries with music industries that have also grown increasingly popular in America in the past few years.

In 2017, the SXSW festival directly and indirectly contributed $348 million to the Austin economy. Annually, Asian tourists contribute more than $300 million to the 10th, 25th, and 35th congressional districts of Texas, which together contain Austin. Overall, Texas receives 469,000 tourists fromAsia, contributing over $4 billion to the Texas economy annually.   

The festival begins today and will run until March 18.

James Holloway is an intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and a student at the University of Sydney in Australia.