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Taiwan may often get overlooked as a nation in East Asia or be more-times-than-not confused for Thailand. But the island of over 23 million still possesses notable cultural and artistic weight. Home to music heavy-hitters like the bands Mayday and sodagreen as well as soloists like Eric Chou and JJ Lin, Taiwan also has a vibrant indie scene. For our indie spotlight month, EnVi dives into seven Taiwanese indie artists you need on your playlists. 

Whyte (?te)

Known for her big sunglasses and even bigger hats, Whyte — also stylized as “?te” — plays with jazz, R&B, and lo-fi in her music. (Fun fact: she was inspired by her seven years in medical school when she chose her artist name.) Just like her signature style of bold shapes and colors, the singer has an equally bold yet velvety voice that captivates her listeners. Whyte dropped “Cazzo,” an all-English track, in 2019, and since then, she has released 10 singles and two full-length albums. Her debut album, A Bedroom of One’s Own (2020), which is inspired by Whyte’s life and Virginia Woolf’s book A Room of One’s Own, got the musician nominated for Best New Artist at Taiwan’s 32nd Golden Melody Awards (GMAs).

Meanwhile, last year, Whyte performed at colleges around Taiwan and held her first event in Tokyo, too. The fashionable musician opened JUNNY’s Taipei show this past November as well. In 2023, Whyte released her sophomore project, Way out. Featuring three pre-released singles, “Finally,” “F.O.,” and “Let Go,” Way out also is home to B-side gems like “Ho(l)e.” With a sharp edge in her voice, Whyte sings of what is expected of girls. Plucking in the background of the track creates an almost sinister sound when she opens with “Little girl / I think it’s time to let you know / Some rules you better follow / To survive in this world.” 

EnVi’s Pick: “Baby Cakes

Whyte’s smooth vocals and the light, swinging rhythm encourages listeners to sway along. The touch of radio static — in the vein of popular lo-fi tracks — in the background adds an extra sense of calm. 

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VH (Vast & Hazy) 

The band duo VH (Vast & Hazy) have carved out a unique space for their sound in the Taiwanese music scene. Composed of KaKa, who provides vocals and lyrics, and 林易祺 LNiCH on guitar, Vast & Hazy are all about emotion. The soft voice of KaKa, the building intensity characteristic to the duo’s sound, and the atmospheric instrumentals are the sure ingredients for the catharsis found in Vast & Hazy’s discography. Essentially, if you’re feeling existential — and who doesn’t, from time-to-time? — take a listen to songs like “我完美的愛情 (Angelfish’s Lover)” or “被壞妄想 (Gunshot in Peace).” No matter how you feel, Vast & Hazy will be there next to you, tackling those same thoughts and questions, too.  

The duo released their first single album, titled 次等秘密 (English title: Insignificant Secret), in 2017. 求救訊號 — or Distress Signal — is Vast & Hazy’s debut full-length project, and it arrived the following year. Vast & Hazy were nominated for Best Vocal Group for this album at the GMAs in 2019. More recently, the band came out with their second full-length album. Subtitled as The Great Beyond in English, the 10-track project has the Chinese name “文明,” which means “civilization.” In this album, KaKa and LNiCH explore the human relationships between animals and the environment. They also extract and ponder philosophical questions against a backdrop of drums, guitars, and artfully wavering vocals. As a result of this expansive project, Vast & Hazy were again nominated for Best Vocal Group at the 2022 GMAs. 

EnVi’s Pick: “與浪之間” (English title: “Waves”) 

Sure and resonant drum beats open this track, echoing the beat of a human heart. With over five million streams on Spotify, Vast & Hazy have clearly left a mark, especially with lyrics such as “看不見你 也看不見自己” (“can’t see you and can’t see myself”). And soak in the vocals, atmosphere, and emotions with the piercing final line “我還在” — “I’m still here.”

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Chih Siou

With a “gentle voice” and a healthy dose of mystery, Chih Siou released his debut album 房間裡的大象 (translates to The Elephant in the Room) in late 2019. Known for his genderfluid appearance — most notably, his beyond shoulder-length hair with magenta tips — the singer-songwriter makes equally colorful music. His smooth and airy vocals work alongside an electronic and folk-pop sound like in his second full-length album, simply titled !!!!. Released on December 30, 2021, this album came right as the year was about to turn. !!!! was also hugged by three singles before its release and three singles after its release. “沒有我的那個字宙,” or “The Universe Without Me,” is Chih Siou’s latest single, which dropped in December 2023. Light strumming on an acoustic guitar and, later, ethereal plucking provides the perfect tone for the heart-wrenching last lyric: “會不會 你得到 真正的快樂” (Will you get true happiness?)”  

As one might gather from his Instagram filled with photos of stuffed animals, video games, and blurry photos, Chih Siou does his own thing. Even so, sticking to who he is — unfiltered and unconventional — has caused him to collect some notable awards. In 2020, Chih Siou received recognition as the Best New Vocal at Taiwan’s GMAs for his debut album. During the same year, he also clinched the award for Best New Asian Artist Mandarin at South Korea’s annual Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA). Most recently, the singer-songwriter performed at one of the New Years Eve music festivals in Tainan — Taiwan’s oldest city — soon before headliner Kim Sejeong took the stage. 

EnVi’s Pick: “根本不是我對手” (translates to “You Can’t Even Compete With Me”) 

Hearing Chih Siou sing “根本不是我對手” live during an outdoor concert on New Years Eve is a special kind of experience. Come for the slowly growing instrumentals and Siou’s elegant vocals in this track, but stay for the wave of emotion that “根本不是我對手” encourages in its final chorus. 

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The Wanted (尋人啟事)

Five members make up the award-winning Taiwanese acapella group, The Wanted (尋人啟事): Adi 信迪 is the leader and vocal bass; Dodo 尋人 and Rere are the sopranos; Chia 掐玉 holds the position as mezzo-soprano and rapper; while Arnold 阿諾 is in charge of vocal percussion and beatbox. Experimentation characterizes The Wanted’s sound, as they have built on their 10 years of music experience. Over the course of their career, they have tapped into various genres like jazz, folk, rock, and even hip-hop and classical to form their unique “The Wanted sound.” The group has also added new vocal effects with the help of technology — like loopers — which has allowed them to create more layers in their songs. Yet, it’s important to remember that “All sources come from our vocals,” as soprano Dodo had shared in an interview with EnVi

The Wanted released their first album in 2020, called Dear Adult. Not only was this album The Wanted’s first as an acapella group, but it also was the “first ever full acapella original album in the Mandopop industry.” Dear Adult won them the Best Vocal Group award at the 32nd GMAs, the same year Whyte won Best New Artist. Meanwhile, The Wanted released their second album, Chubby! Chubby! (減肥計劃), this past November. As noted by EnVi, this project “tackles the concept of dieting in a playful and nuanced way” with title track “Chubby” spearheading this theme. 

EnVi’s Pick: “食飽未

Sung completely in Taiwanese, The Wanted take the common greeting “tsia̍h-pá–buē?” — meaning “have you eaten” or “how are you?” — and turn it into a song you can’t stop listening to. The bouncy refrain, tsia̍h-pá–buē?, is bound to add an extra spring to your step. 

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Hug Muzik

Headed by lead singer Zeng Lixin 曾立馨 — whose name is the Chinese name of the group — Hug Muzik are a band that weaves together beiguan (北管), a traditional style of music found in Taiwan, acoustic elements, and unique vocal tone. Hug Muzik is based in Changhua County, located in the middle of Taiwan’s west coast, where they formed their group in 2020. Besides Lixin Zeng, the other current members of Hug Muzik are bassist Youjun (友君), acoustic guitarist Mao (貓), drummer Azhi (阿志), and beiguan musician Qingyi (晴儀). 

Although Hug Muzik have performed around Changhua County for about four years, they only started releasing music on streaming platforms in 2023. They dropped two singles in the months ahead of their debut album 轉來的路 (translates to The Way Back from Taiwanese). This project was released this past September, to which Zeng Lixin wrote she was “super happy” in an Instagram post about the new album. According to the same caption, Hug Muzik’s lead singer moved to Changhua specifically to see this album to fruition. 轉來的路 features 11 songs, and each track is sung completely in Taiwanese. 

EnVi’s Pick: “聽講“ (translates to “I Heard” from Taiwanese)

You don’t need to know Taiwanese to get behind the palatable energy of Hug Muzik’s “聽講” (translates to “I Heard” from Taiwanese). Sung about a grandfather, they sing of hearing that he works as a chef during the day and plays an instrument during the nighttime. The best part? Getting swept up in the blend of traditional instruments in the chorus, the steadying undercurrent amid the intentional chaos of sound. 

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KIRE is a force to be reckoned with. While he used to be a member of the hip-hop idol band BOi!, KIRE is now a soloist, singer-songwriter, producer, and founder of his own brand and company, “The Kid Who Flew.” As he joked in a recent “Let me introduce my employees” Reels, KIRE quite literally has every role in his company — including stylist, fitness trainer, and accountant. (The “sharp knife” singer also is not shy about being open about his personal journey, like when he participated in an art therapy session with his fans; expressing himself through his style; nor unabashedly sharing his likes and dislikes, such as cats and tomatoes, respectively.)  

All jokes aside, however, KIRE has built his brand around an “Icarus” theme. A scrolling sentence on his website’s homepage defines this perspective: “Life’s true beauty lies in the attempts, the struggles, and the soaring triumphs that come when you decide to try, decide to fly.” In fact, KIRE’s first full-length album, which dropped in December 2022, is titled IKARUS and revolves around this theme. 

But let’s go back to the beginning: KIRE released his first single “,”  meaning “beautiful,” in 2022. The cover art for this track features “You’re Beautiful” handwritten in red across KIRE’s reflection. Fourteen more singles followed this initial release, which all lead to his 2022 album. In that time — and beyond — KIRE often collaborated with fellow musician friends, including Dena (they host a YouTube show together), Shi Shi, maeshima soshi, brb., and 木木mumu. In addition, both he and Whyte opened JUNNY’s Taipei show as special guests. KIRE’s track “summer demo” even made it onto Love in Taipei’s movie soundtrack (which Ashley Liao stars in!).

EnVi’s Pick: “” (translates to “Beautiful”) 

In a few seconds, KIRE will have you singing along to the bouncy “你那麼美 yeah yeah / 水 yeah yeah / 美 yeah yeah“ (“You’re so beautiful yeah yeah / beautiful [in Taiwanese] yeah yeah / beautiful yeah yeah”) refrain. Sometimes you just gotta let go and vibe a little. That’s what KIRE and his music are all about.

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緩緩 Huan Huan

Based in Taipei and formed in 2016, the band 緩緩 Huan Huan creates healing music. Just like their name suggests —  “huan huan” means “slowly” — this four-member band encourages listeners to live life slowly and to take it all in, one step at a time. Members Coco (vocals and guitar), Myles (guitar), Stone (bass), and Yi Jen (drums) tap into dream-pop, shoegaze, and folk-rock sounds to make their “soft yet resilient,” easy-listening music. 

Huan Huan released their second album this past October titled 瀏海被風吹的整個飛起來 (“My bangs were blown all over by the wind”). While this 10-track project has a long title, the name also encapsulates the emotions and everyday happenings the band captures in this album. Their other projects include their 2017 self-titled debut EP, which was followed by their two-song EP, Charlie, two years later. In 2020, Huan Huan released their debut album, a nine-song project called 水可以去任何地方 (English title: Water Can Go Anywhere). They played with elements of indie-folk and dream-pop genres in this album, and they got the opportunity to tour around Taiwan for the first time, too. 

The next year, 2021, was a big year for the band. They were nominated for Best New Artist at the Taiwanese Golden Indie Music Awards (GIMA) as well as nominated as a Best New Band at the Freshmusic Awards. This year, too, Huan Huan took their music abroad, participating in international music festivals — remotely for the time being due to the pandemic — including ones in Spain, Thailand, and Japan. Then in 2022, not only did the band perform (in-person!) in Singapore, the first time they played a show abroad, but they released their next EP 藍色的房間橘色的人 (English title: Blue Room Orange Man) and added their new bassist Stone to the group. 

EnVi’s Pick: “瀏海被風吹的整個飛起來” (translates to My bangs were blown all over by the wind”)

Huan Huan’s music is made of slice-of-life stories. In this track, the final song on the album of the same name, Huan Huan grounds the story in the senses. Imagine summer is coming to a close. You’re walking on the cooling sand, your toes tingling a bit as they get briefly buried in the sand. The sun is setting, and the reflection of pinks and blues and oranges blends together among the peaks and dips of the waves. Maybe there’s a small breeze playing with your baby hairs. Nothing matters but the here and now — and having Huan Huan on your playlist.

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Editor’s Note: Translations courtesy of Eric Yeh.

Want to learn more about Taiwanese musicians? Check out EnVi’s interview with The Wanted here!