Taipei Stories

Tracey and Harmony: Mother/Daughter in Taipei

This was a brilliant contribution by Lamchxp.

The Kids Know How to Run but They Don’t Know How to Hide: A Message from Boni Fredy

To the audience, I would like to pose a question: what is the measure of true bravery in a man? If someone who has yet to finish university, moves to another country, on a totally different continent, to embark on music career, where he is a one man show, does that count? Fredy Boni is essentially a one man show when he performs as a rapper at venues throughout Taiwan. He writes his own rhymes, produces his own videos and markets his own original creations.

Mr. Boni Federik Francoise was born in Ivory Coast, educated in Ghana and now lives as a student and an up and coming rapper in the city of Zhi Xue in Taiwan.  Fredy is a gentle soul. This is made obvious when you first meet him. You automatically feel comfortable in his presence. You can sense that he is well educated and he has a worldly perspective which makes him highly relatable.

We took a stroll around his campus, which gave this interview a unique look and feel. We spoke, at great length, about the differences between African and Asian cultures. The most striking difference is in social structure. Socializing in Asia is not as organic or spontaneous as it would occur in Africa. As a new comer, especially at the beginning, Fredy shared with me the sense of loneliness he had to grapple with. This came from being homesick as well as the fact that social life in Asia isn’t nearly as rich or as developed as it would be in Africa. The social structure in Asia and Taiwan is lacking in a way that hurts the young. We agreed that this is what accounts for a lot of the anxiety and mental anguish that Asian societies endure, especially among students. Please enjoy!

I am Black!” This was the statement made by Mr. Boni Emmanuel when I interviewed him at his restaurant on November 11th. This statement, coming from him, was both powerful and empowering to hear. Boni Emmanuel came to Taiwan more than 10 years ago after studying and working in Austria for several years. He is originally from Ivory Coast in West Africa. He has lived and traveled all over the world. He was kind enough to share with me his insights as far as being a black man in all these different locals. Boni has a family here and he gave me a lot of useful information about the Taiwan legal system. His restaurant is in the Hualien section of the north of Taiwan.

I haven’t posted to this page for quite a while. It took me 8 months to find another interview that is suitable to do in Taipei. On July 7th, I interviewed Toi Windham. We  sat down at a cafe in downtown Taipei. The video shows that we had a pretty delicious spread. Like me, she has fairly extensive experience traveling around Asia and especially with China. In fact, she has even more experience with China (its people and culture) than I do. This is due to being of Chinese background and the fact that she majored in Chinese.

It quickly became apparent that I was talking to a very dynamic young woman. She comes from a background that stressed education. Consequently, her way of viewing the world comes from a place of deep understanding. In talking to Toi, you see a woman who is very direct in the conversations she has with people. She, at once, has an introspective quality to how she relates to everyone. Her background has made her a highly adaptable person. In her own words “don’t be afraid to take the plunge.”

On Sunday May 14th I conducted an interview with Themba Child and Patrick Lubon. Both men grew up in Canada and have lived in Taipei, on and off, for over 10 years. The first thing that is striking when you talk to Patrick and Themba is the banter between these two. They are both hilarious. It shows that they have known each other for a number of years before Taipei. This makes for an easy-flowing  camaraderie between the two as well as a natural sense of timing when it comes to telling jokes. The two host a podcast called Butternut Deluxe, which, given its content should have a much larger following than it does. It is extremely creative and entertaining. Our main topic for this interview was dating and the dating scene as it plays out here in Taipei. We focused on Do’s and Dont’s, what it is like dating Taiwanese women in comparison with women in Canada  and basically did a compare and contrast between the life of a single bachelor and the life of a man in a committed relationship.

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On April 6, 2017 I interviewed Eric Carter Chu. Eric is older than he looks. When we first met at his DJ show in Taipei, I thought he was in his late 20’s. He is actually in his mid-thirties and has the insight to match his years. Initially, I thought this interview would be very simple and only consist of info about his gigs and maybe the club scene here in Taipei. What I discovered when we actually met and started talking was a huge surprise and a lot more enlightening than I had expected.

Eric grew up in LA. His dad is African-American and his mom is Hong Kong Chinese. He feels connected to both worlds but he fights as a Black man. Through his music, he fights back against the negative images that are all to commonly accepted as the norm regarding Black men. He spins in the US frequently and he has DJed and lived all over Asia. His sounds are unique to him and his own experiences and he seeks to introduce club goers to real culture and not music that is generic or commercial or even degrading. In Taipei in particular, what he has witnessed is a clash of cultures. A DJ, like any creative artist, wants to put his own unique, individual touch on the art he produces. When a DJ spins, I learned from Eric, his set should have something of him, his signature if you will, embedded in it. His signature should draw out a reaction from the crowd. These reactions prompt the DJ to shape this crowd the way he sees fit. The DJ gets to choose what kind of atmosphere or energy the crowd and the entire event has and is immersed in.

Eric soon found out that that paradigm only rings true in America or maybe some other places but certainly not in Taipei. Asian societies tend to be ultra-conformist. This idea expresses itself in nearly every aspect of life out here. Just about all facets of society employ the concept of group-think. Deciding how you as an individual feel about something in the moment when the group has not already voted, is almost frightening for people here. When you go clubbing in Taipei, you may think you are in a Western-style night club but you’re really not. The people are following their own cultural morays. On the dance floor, everyone likes to be doing the exact same thing. The music being played should be songs that everyone knows and that everyone can sing along to. The whole crowd moving and thinking in synchronicity is what lulls club patrons into a comfort zone. That’s when they feel like they had a good time. Experimenting with the vibe of the audience or introducing sounds that are totally new really doesn’t go over very well here. Because likes and dislikes are pre-determined, there is little room for creative growth in the music scene. Eric is optimistic that this will change, however slowly. He is one of the people who is pushing for that kind of creative change.

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