By Trista di Genova, The Wild East
I was in DaAn Park for a picnic with Griffin Lu and his birthday-lovin’ friends, when – surprise, surprise, at least for me — long-time Taiwan-lover and singer/songwriter Matthew Lien (馬修, ma sha) took the stage. I’d wanted to hear him perform for ages. He must be the best-known ‘laowai’ (foreigner) in Taiwan, and over the past decade and a half he’s gained quite an appreciative following, having released quite a number of mellow, world music/ambient-style CDs on environmental and cultural themes (one in particular I enjoyed was inspired by Orchid Island). His first international release, “Bleeding Wolves,” was released by independent record distributor Wind Music of Taiwan, rapidly achieved multi-platinum status in Taiwan, and according to Wikipedia, “sold millions of copies on the piracy market in China.”
Last Saturday night, he played both covers and some originals. I’d never noticed before how his mellifluous, comforting voice was so reminiscent of Elton John, or Bruce Hornsby. He played piano and sang, sometimes with the accompaniment of various Taiwanese musicians, who were in turn on the cello, or violin, or Chinese violin. In between playing songs he would talk about the music, and I was struck with his diplomatic, kind and gentle way of interacting with the crowd. When he spoke, he spoke with (as opposed to to) the mostly Taiwanese audience, who returned his deep respect for them, and grace, with their rapt appreciation.
After the performance I bumped into him, his wife Daisy and son as they were leaving the park. I told him my impression of his ‘heroes’ as it turned out – and asked whether he’d met Elton John when he’d visited Taiwan. No, he hadn’t, and we laughed a bit over the kafuffle Elton John had with the notoriously ill-behaved Taiwan media at the airport.
Bet Elton would have probably enjoyed his visit far more if he’d been able to meet Our Musical Ambassador, Matthew Lien.
One song from the performance: