Albums Of The Week: Lo Ta-yu and Bobby Chen’s heartfelt ruminations hit home

Two grizzled veterans of the Taiwanese music scene ruminate on the meaning of home in their new albums.

The question is particularly pertinent for troubadour Lo Ta-yu, 63, as he was born in Taiwan, but has lived in the United States and Hong Kong and has a music studio in Beijing.

It is a theme that he has dealt with before. The songs Home I and Home II are on the 1984 album Home, a very different animal from his earlier, more politically charged works, which led to him being pegged as a "protest singer".

Then, he yearned for the warmth of the past and wondered on Home II: "What place can appease an exhausted spirit which has been wandering the ends of the world."

Now the father of a five-year-old daughter, he is the one who is providing a safe haven and it is as if he is singing on her behalf in Home III: "Give me feelings of warmth, understanding, strength and mutual protection/Hope that as I grow up in days to come of cold, heat and storms, my heart will never change."

Even with an eye on the future, Lo reminisces fondly about the past. On the breezy and folksy Reunion, he recalls his schooldays: "That period in my life with no regrets and no complaints."

  • POP


    Lo Ta-yu

    Seed Music

    3.5/5 stars


    Bobby Chen

    Rock Records

    3.5/5 stars

The mood is more elegiac on singer-songwriter Bobby Chen's record. Its title track begins with a chorus of la-la-las over a simple guitar accompaniment and it is suffused with nostalgia and a gentle melancholy.

It ends with a moving line about his late mother: "My mother, she wasn't beautiful, how do I describe her."

On the album closer Yesterday Today Tomorrow, Chen, 58, reflects: "Time is inscrutable/Maybe no one should live today, but dream of returning to yesterday."

Like Lo, Chen has had a peripatetic existence. But while he has recorded his music in various countries and published books about his overseas travels, he seems to have neglected his own country.

This was the genesis for Home Coming and he even went back to his birthplace, Changhua County, to shoot the music video for the title track.

There is no mistaking the honesty and depth of emotion in these albums and the rough-hewn, weathered voices of the two musicians are part of the homespun charm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline 'Heartfelt ruminations hit home'. Subscribe