SPIRIT OF TAIWAN
(Say Yes to Taiwan)
Spirit of Taiwan has its roots in the Say No to Chinese Unification movement of the late 90's, but also began as Taiwan Rock Alliance's first effort at organizing a major music event. The fledgling concert promoter put on the first Say Yes to Taiwan event in 2000 with the dual purpose in asserting Taiwanese identity in the face of encroaching Chinese policy while remembering those who were affected by the February 28, 1947 massacre in which the leading Kuomintang government violently suppressed anti-government riots. More recently, Spirit of Taiwan has been a call on the current establishment to release records on the 228 Incident as well as the following period of White Terror when many political dissidents were taken into custody never to be seen again. That being stated, over the years the tone of the concert has changed from being a blatant anti-China protest to more of a reconciliatory effort. For the first few years, the festival was held for free in Taipei's Peace Park and then moved to a lot directly in front of the Presidential Palace in 2004. TRA moved the event again in 2005 to Kaohsiung, and for following years, they dropped the name Say Yes to Taiwan while trying to pinpoint their stance with the event. In 2006 it became East-Core Asia, with the idea of setting an example for democracy in the region, before finally settling on the more inclusive Spirit of Taiwan: With Justice We Cure this Nation. During these years an entry fee was applied and the location also changed to the Zhongshan Soccer Stadium.
The Taiwan Rock Alliance, under leadership of Freddy Lim of the Symphonic metal band Chthonic, has consistently chosen local bands that sympathize with the Taiwan independence campaign as well as overseas artists that have some relevance to the island's political struggle to appear at the Say Yes to Taiwan festivals. Many local artists that have a record of supporting TRA's efforts to associate the local music scene with Taiwanese identity, including Tizzy Bac, Nipples, Fire Ex., LTK Commune, Kou Chou Ching and Chthonic, have been featured at the event over the years. Coming from Japan, the all-girl pop punk band Softball played the festival every year consecutively until their break-up in 2003, and then lead vocalist Moe Suzuki continued to show her support for Taiwan bringing her new band Akiakane. In 2004, confrontational Chinese band Punk God performed and found themselves in exile. Now living in asylum in Sweden, they have returned to Taiwan several times since. For the Spirit of Taiwan festivals, TRA invited Czech art rock band The Plastic People of the Universe making a connection to their own struggles with a communist regime as part of the Velvet Revolution. Other popular bands to play at this event have been UK indie rock group Muse and American hardcore band Strike Anywhere. Due to recent problems with funding from the current pro-China government, TRA has slowed down their festival productions in order to focus on individual live house concerts. Consequently, several unofficial lo-key events commemorating the 228 Incident have surfaced in recent years.
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