The current core members of the Worker’s Band Black Hand Nakasi include Bo-Wei Chen, You-Ren Yang, Yu-Lin Chuang, Tzu-Chiang Liu, Ming-Hui Wang, Di-Hao Chang and Yao-Ting Yao. Since the forming of the band, they have been affirming their belief “music comes from the public and goes to the public” and developing their peculiar creative process and presentational approach, such as “collective practice,” “going to the site,” “story sharing workshop,” etc. Their production grammar shapes the unique form of their work, and sets them far apart from other bands.
In 1977, legendary singer Shuang-Tze Lee made a piercing call for “we want to sing our songs” in a concert in Tamkang University. Who does this “we” refer to? What are “our songs”? Simple might these questions be, yet they were considered as political taboo during the Taiwanese Martial Law period. It was of no surprise that Tzu-Jiun Yang’s attempt in bringing folk songs into social movements was completely banned by the government. Nine years after the Lifting of Martial Law, Black Hand Nakasi responded to these two questions to liberate the concept of “we” from its strong tie with nationalism. “We” and “our songs” are reinterpreted and reimagined by subjectivities of people, workers, oppressed groups and protesters.
“We” are not positioned by theoretic speculations, but pronounced via long-term practices and engagements. Cultural activists always confront the complexity of working along with different publics when entering scenes of social movement. To avoid such possibility of becoming some heroic musician or artist, Black Hand Nakasi often consciously chooses the most progressive position: they do not sing or voice for the public, but let the public sing and voice out by themselves. With their firm belief, the band democratizes their music production to seek for alternative possibilities to “sing our songs” throughout different phases of their seventeen years’ practice.
“Living as Form” investigates questions around socially engagement art, and hopes to explores more examples from the local context. The achievement of Black Hand Nakasi provides us with profound reflections on cultural production. They inherit the historical folk song spirit to “sing our songs,” continuing the momentum of cultural activism from the 90s. Not only through their lyrics, their cultural intervention is reflected and cultivated in the process of music production. It would be interesting to note how these recent dramatic changes of Taiwanese social movements, in terms of forms, topics and the public, will further transform the cultural production of Black Hand Nakasi. More inputs from activists may be required for its future progress and practice.