Rise up in midst of world politics: Hsu-nami @ the Beijing Olympics

Beside the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Hsu-nami is the next hottest topic of the moment. New-Jersey-based Hsu-nami’s track “Rising of the Sun” is featured at the Olympics to represent the Chinese men’s basketball team. At a festival organized CAPA (Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans) in New York's Union Square last summer, AZN Television picked up Hsu-nam’s performance. The broadcast impressed Jason Gilfillan, a NBA representative who later became the music coordinator for the Olympics. The band then signed over the rights to the Olympics allowing for airplay at the international event in Beijing this summer.

Jack Hsu and his band have since received tremendous media attention locally and internationally. On the surface, it may seem only “natural” that Hsu, the twenty-five-year-old Taiwanese-born American who now resides in Fort Lee, NJ, represents China. Jim Beckerman of northjersey.com assumes the ethnic similarity between Taiwan and China, claiming that Hsu will be “cheering on his countrymen” at the Beijing Olympics.

The story is far more complicated. China does not equate Taiwan, historically or presently. At least, not quite. The Kuomingtang (KMT) fled from mainland China to Taiwan in 1949 after the communist takeover of China. KMT’s leader Chiang Kai-shek and his son ruled Taiwan under military dictatorship for fifty years. Ethnically, Taiwan’s heterogeneous population is majority Han, but is now divided into two large groups: “Taiwanese” (bengxengren, 本省人) and “Chinese” (waixengren, 外省人). Most individuals who identify as bengxengren strictly claim lineage prior to the 1949 KMT influx; and, waixengren refers to those who immigrated to the island with Chiang around 1949. The “Taiwanese-vs.-Chinese” distinction has been politicized since the beginning of the democratizing movement in Taiwan in the 1990s. Still, this is only the Taiwanese side of the story. Today, many citizens of Mainland China, including the governmental officials, consider Taiwan as a part of China.

Hsu-nami’s representation of China at the Olympics has stirred controversy among the anti-China Olympics-boycotters within the Taiwanese American community. Inadvertently perhaps, Hsu-nami’s fusion-ist aesthetics entraps the band in the polemical debate over Chinese-vs.-Taiwanese identity, treading the thin line that marks the boundaries among China, Taiwan, and the United States.


I recorded a segment featuring Jack Hsu and lead guitarist Brent Bergholm on LaGuardia radio on August 12, 2008. This show features a few tracks off of their first LP Entering the Mandala, including the Olympics hit, as well as live, acoustic in-studio performances of two songs by the duo.

Incidentally, one of the first Yellow Buzz posts is about a Hsu-nami show in New York last year around this time. The return to Hsu-nami in this post marks the one-year birthday of Yellow Buzz. I’m happy to share this congratulatory moment with Hsu-nami.

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