Liu Shao-hsi: a singer who breaks stereotypes of Hakka music

Birth name
: 劉劭希 (Liu Shao-hsi)
Born: October 25, 1964
Birthplace: Taichung County (Central Taiwan)

Liu Shao-hsi is a Hakka from Taichung City’s Dongshi District. Since childhood, he has been exposed to classical music. He later became a music producer for the production and arrangement of albums for many famous singers. However, as a Hakka with awareness of his cultural identity, he resolutely dedicated himself to creating music using his native language, and has published a number of Hakka albums in the unique Dapu accent.

He was nominated 11 times and won four major awards in the Golden Melody Awards. His musical talent and creativity have been well-received, and he has established his position in the Hakka music industry and earned the reputation of a virtuoso, which has inspired many Hakka musicians to devote themselves to making creations in their mother language.

Looking back at the 2003 Golden Melody Awards, Liu Shao-hsi won two awards in that year, namely the Best Hakka Language Singing Award and the Best Producer Award. No one raised objections to the former, but the latter caused an uproar. That is because the producer award is not in the language category, and it is generally given to the best producer of all the entries of the year. It was the first time that a Hakka album has won this award.

Liu started his career very early in the mainstream music industry. The award-winning work that year “Yay Funkka (野放客)” was his second album. The keynote of funk, which is one of genres of black music, subverted the conservative and reserved convention of Hakka music. A large number of intensive beats and rhythms were unprecedented in this Hakka album. Therefore, judges considered his musical work to be creative and worthy of recognition.

However, at that time, Liu’s winning of the producer award was seen as somehow  associated with politics because it might be a way for the government to please the Hakkas in Taiwan. For this reason, some people even questioned whether Liu’s work was eligible to compete with Mandarin mainstream music works. This issue caused a lot of discussion at the time. In the Hakka community, there are also split opinions about Liu’s works. While young people regard him as their new idol, those who are older are unwilling to accept his style. In any case, after he won the awards, the so-called Hakka pop music was literally noticed by everyone.

Based on his years of experience as a producer, Liu uses his mother tongue, that is, the Dapu accent of Hakka language, to compose pop songs with elements of jazz, Latin, funk, and electronic music. In term of his music style, Liu has been controversial among the new generation of Hakka songwriters. Most of his musical works (whether in the creation of lyrics or melodies) upend our previous traditional stereotypes of Hakka songs, because he brought the Western musical features into Hakka pop music. The fact that Liu tried to revolutionize the music industry by his innovative works truly astonishes Hakka and non-Hakka audiences.