Announcing a New Column: From the Gramophone

When I was growing up, it was all about mainstream pop music. Digital streaming was still a new thing at the time (I remember being in awe at how quickly YouTube took over our lives), and the only music that I was exposed to was a strange mix of Yahoo’s Top 100 Music Videos and the local radio stations that my parents reluctantly let me blast in the car. I still remember jamming along to Radio Disney (AM 1110, a number I knew by heart), and being absolutely thrilled when my mom would on occasion let me listen to the really raunchy stuff… like 102.7 KIIS FM. Even now, years later, whenever I get tired of listening to my carefully-curated Spotify playlists, I occasionally turn my phone off and switch back to those radio stations that I grew up with, just for old time’s sake. Although the EDM-tinged songs that overpopulate the airwaves are not my cup of tea, I endure through it all just for that small chance of hearing some of my favorite songs played on the radio once again.

As I’ve started to turn towards more indie rock and underground music, something started to bother me in the back of my mind, especially whenever I talked to fellow music fans. I remember a friend explaining to me how much their parents loved listening to bands like Oasis, Blur, and David Bowie–all names that I’d been unfamiliar with until senior year of high school (in fact, to this day I still haven’t heard an entire Bowie record played straight through… sorry!)–and how they passed on their love of music to him. Moreover, whenever I walk into a record store, I’m completely lost. What’s Led Zeppelin? Who are the Carpenters? The Beatles? You mean, like the bug? (I’ve actually never heard of The Beatles until eighth grade, and I grew up in California.) To this day, I still get nervous whenever I walk into a record store and have to talk to anyone, since I feel like a perpetual outsider.

But my friend bringing up his parents led me to another realization: that I had no idea what my parents liked listening to at all. American pop music was not a part of their culture, and I was curious to find out what was. It made me wonder what they thought about all those times that my parents forced themselves to listen to me and my sister blast High School Musical, Rihanna, or Avril Lavigne in the car. But I never knew, since they always sat through it, listening along with us. When my parents brought their lives over to America, it seems to me like they left their music behind almost completely, relinquishing all of that in order to join us in the process of becoming more “American”. Now that we’re all older, I was curious to find out what they remembered about music in Taiwan, and whether or not they missed listening to those songs from back in the day–just like how I do with KIIS FM.

Whatever I find out will be the subject of a new series on the site called “From the Gramophone”, where I ask the people around me (parents, grandparents, relatives, etc.) about the kinds of music that they listened to when they were growing up. I think it’ll be interesting to find out just how much times have changed within the span of a few decades, and to internalize the kinds of songs that perhaps I would’ve grown up with if things had worked out differently. Who knows? Maybe I’ll finally have something to sing together with them the next time we karaoke.

– Li-Wei Chu

Special thanks to Jerrie Au for the banner!

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