Wu Sheng-chih: the pioneer of contemporary Hakka pop music




Chinese name
: 吳盛智
Born: November 12, 1944
Died: December 21, 1983
Birthplace: Miaoli County (Northern Taiwan)

Wu Sheng-chih is a singer and pop music creator. In the 1970s, he created a new possibility for Hakka music that was different from the past. This created a big echo on Hakka youth music groups at the time. The song in his album "Fated (無緣)" can be said to be the beginning of the pop songs written by Taiwan’s Hakka people. He combined the rock vocal style and Hakka mountain songs to reinterpret Hakka songs, which led to the rise of Hakka pop music.

Wu liked music from the time he was a child. After graduating from elementary school, he was already able to play the guitar well. When he was in the military service, he served in an entertainment team. He also joined the Jiu San Kang (九三康) band in Luzhou, Taipei. And that’s how his career in singing began.

After Wu completed his military service, he went to Tainan to organize the "Sunshine Ensemble (陽光合唱團)" as the lead singer. He sang Western songs that were popular in Europe and America at that time. His superb guitar playing skills and his unique singing style gave him a firm place in the popular music scene. They also made "Sunshine" the leader among more than 30 Western popular bands in the country at the time. The band was often invited to appear on TV shows and even performed in Singapore and Malaysia, among other places.

At that time, Wu was called "Mr. Sunshine" with his smile that was self-confident and slightly embarrassed. At that time, he was recognized as the "God of Guitar" by the Taiwanese music industry for his guitar playing skills, in addition to his talents in music composition and his good voice. However, it was only shortly before his death that he signed a contract with Taiwan Television (TTV) station as a basic singer.

Influenced by the writer Ji Li-nan (紀利男), Wu began to work on composing music and began to sing his own works. He gradually switched to singing unique Mandarin songs, and finally returned to the creation of Hakka songs with his good friend Tu Min-heng (涂敏恆), who was also a Hakka music artist. The first song they worked on together became the popular song “I’m a Hakka (捱係客家人).”

Prior to this, the content of Hakka songs was only traditional folk songs and minors, and there were no Hakka songs made into pop songs. It was not until Wu released the album “Fated" in 1981 that he created a style different from folk songs. Singers who came after Wu, like Sheng-Xiang & Band (生祥樂隊), began to show the diverse style of Hakka songs and began to make their mark in the pop music scene.

Among them, "Fated" in 1986 was selected as the soundtrack in the dance "My Nostalgia, My Songs (我的鄉愁我的歌)" by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre.  It was often performed at home and abroad, and was included in the original soundtrack album, causing a great response. The song “Fated" has also been sung by many famous Hakka singers, who each presented different interpretations of it.

Wu had made a wish to make a purely self-composed album songs for Hakkas around the world, but unfortunately he died in a car accident at the age of 39 in 1983 during the peak of his career.

Before the "Hakka Consciousness" has yet to rise, Wu's creative spirit and techniques had deeply influenced the new generation of Hakka music creators, such as Ayugo Huang (黃連煜), Hsieh Yu-wei (謝宇威), Yen Chih-wen (顏志文) and Tseng Ya-jun (曾雅君), and promoted the creation of new Hakka music.