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Taiwanese Heavy Metal Band Takes Government Backing, Political Message on World Tour

  • Andrew Ryan

A Taiwanese heavy metal band is starting a tour in the United States, bringing with it, a political message and backing from the Taiwan government. Both the band and Taiwan's government hope that the tour will highlight the island's inability to join the United Nations due to opposition from China. VOA's Andrew Ryan spoke with a band member before their departure.

This is the sound of Chthonic, a Taiwanese band that calls its music "symphonic black metal." The song is "UNlimited Taiwan" - with the first two letters "UN" capitalized to highlight Taiwan's difficulty in becoming a member of the United Nations.

"UNlimited Taiwan" is also the name of the band's current tour of the United States and Europe. Chthonic's lead singer, Freddy Lim, explains the band's goal.

"We want to let the fans know the situation of Taiwan and Taiwan cannot participate [in] the international organizations like the U.N. or the WHO just because of [the] Chinese government so we want our fans [to] know that we need your support," said Lim. "Taiwan needs your support."

The Taiwanese government has put up more than $180,000 to advertise Taiwan, part of this going to sponsor the band. Much of the money will fund an advertising campaign to highlight Taiwan's marginalization in the international community.

The dates of the tour will overlap with Taiwan's next attempt to join the United Nations in September. China has blocked Taiwan's membership effort every year since 1993, saying the island is part of China. This year's bid is also expected to fail.

Taiwan has been self-ruled since Nationalist forces fled here after losing a civil war with communist forces. For years it had a U.N. seat, as the Republic of China. But in 1971, the Beijing government was granted that seat, and since then, has worked hard to diplomatically isolate Taiwan. Only a few dozen, mostly small, nations have diplomatic ties with Taipei.

Beijing insists that Taiwan must eventually reunite with the Chinese mainland, and has vowed to retake control if the island by force if necessary.

In Taiwan, critics have questioned the government's choice of a heavy metal band to carry its message. But officials say the government will work with anyone who has similar ideals.

Chthonic's lead singer, Lim, says the band supports the government's message, not the government itself. He explains that the band is open to working with the opposition parties too, as long as the message is the same.

The band starts off its tour Thursday in Seattle, Washington, where Chthonic performs in the first of 20 OZZfest concerts organized by Ozzy Osbourne, a British heavy-metal artist.

Lim says that the band's political message will not be a problem with Ozzy Osbourne or his concert series.

"I think they know, but they don't want to stop us, because, you know, it's rock music. If your message is a positive message, like 'we want to join the international family,' it's okay with everybody," he said.

The OZZfest concerts are just a small part of Chthonic's UNlimited Taiwan tour, which will bring the band and its message to more than 80 cities in North America and Europe.

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