Easy listening Mando-reggae

Reggae, which came out of Jamaica in the 1960s and with its calypso rhythms and laidback vibe, seems to be far removed from the Mandopop scene, which has an undisguised penchant for conventionally structured ballads.

Just don't tell that to Taiwanese band Matzka - they appropriated it and are completely at ease with it. Perhaps the folk music roots of the genre resonated with this group of aboriginal musicians, whose sound is a bracingly original blend of reggae, folk and rock. Matzka were named Best Band at the Golden Melody Awards for their 2010 self-titled debut.

Vu Vu Reggae marks the solo debut of the band's lead singer, Matzka. As its title makes clear, he is still in thrall to the style. With a full head of dreadlocks, he even looks the part of a reggae musician.




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In his hands, he proves the genre can be a versatile tool, as suitable for personal stories as it is for getting the party going and for everything else in between.

A Yi is a lament about the disappearing natural landscape set to an easygoing tune: "Aieeee/If we can't hold onto it, just remember it in our heads/Aieeee/If we can't remember, mark it in our hearts."

The deceptively light-hearted Don't Care About Him is about the child caught in the middle when parents fight; Uncle is an affectionate send-up of the middle-aged blues; and Tribal Party Night is a call to everyone to come together and celebrate.

His two fellow aboriginal guest stars on the album fit in perfectly. On Uwa U, A-lin sings beguilingly in what is presumably a tribal tongue about a woman as beautiful as a lily. Jia Jia tangos with raspy-voiced Matzka on the duet As It Turns Out, in which music brings a couple together: "As it turns out, we have a tacit understanding, as it turns out, we have feelings for each other/As it turns out, you like reggae with a whiff of Taitung."

You, too, could find yourself developing a taste for this unlikely musical brew.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'Easy listening Mando- reggae'. Print Edition | Subscribe