When Taiwanese pop-rock band Buddha Jump (佛跳墙) won the Best Band title at the 26th Golden Melody Awards in June, you would be forgiven for doing a double take.
Yes, that is Malaysian singer-songwriter Penny Tai (戴佩妮) in the band. Best known for her 2001 hit song Ni Yao De Ai (你要的愛, The Love You Want), the 37-year-old formed Buddha Jump with rock band D-Power in 2011, as a side project alongside her solo career.
In an email interview with migme, the band shared in Mandarin that they have been friends for many years, and it has always been Penny’s dream to form a band. At the time, drummer Alibula (千千) was going to serve national service in the Taiwan army, and keyboardist Yar (牙牙) was preparing for studies in the UK. Feeling emotional about her friends leaving (and being slightly drunk), Penny was determined to turn her pipe dream into reality.
The email that started it all
Penny sent her friends an email with the subject “I’ll admit I’d love to be crazy”:
我已經五天沒出門了。我知道簽了約我也未必會開心，所以決定在入獄前好好享受自由的空氣，再做一張專輯或 EP。我想好好享受做 indie 的快樂，各位一起來瘋嗎？
Translation: I’ve not left the house in five days. I know that I may not be happy even if I’ve signed a contract. So I’ve decided that before going to jail, I’d enjoy this breath of freedom and make another album or EP. I really wish to enjoy the joys of being indie. Would you guys join me in this madness?
And the rest is history. The four-year-old band’s lineup now has Penny (or affectionately known as Ah Nee in the band), Alibula, Yar, guitarists Howe (陳君豪) and SMH (理事長), and bassist OD (奧迪).
The band’s first album included songs that had been earlier rejected because they weren’t accepted by the mainstream market or were deemed not commercial enough. The band members wanted to make an album they loved, regardless of what record labels, producers and music executives thought.
“The feeling is really great. I used all the vocal techniques that previous singing teachers told me not to use! This is how you make music. Now that I have another outlet, I have no regrets,” said Penny.
For musicians who had achieved mainstream popularity, the band took the unorthodox route of not setting aside advertising money. Penny told The Star in an earlier interview that this was because they financed the album themselves, and did not have enough budget for advertising.
Winning Taiwan’s equivalent of the Grammy Awards was a nod of recognition and also a boost of their profile in the regional scene. The band has released two albums: Budddha Jump in 2011, and in 2014, Let You See (給你看) which won them Best Band.
Their indie pop rock sound is reminiscent of Death Cab for Cutie meets Panic at the Disco. It is a step away from the usual Mandopop and K-pop fare, and shows a more daring, creative side to the Taiwanese music scene.
Fun on the road
Being friends, there are lots of funny encounters while working together. Once Penny was so into the performance that she did not realise she had accidentally pulled out the cord for the bass guitar.
“All six of us are hyperactive children. While singing 坦白 (‘honest’ or ‘candid’ in English), Howe suddenly started dancing uncontrollably. He just kept dancing as if the whole stage belonged to him. Everyone just laughed until they could not sing or play, and it was just him performing solo,” the band shared.
Behind the name
Why the name Buddha Jump? The band members were coming up with names around Chinese New Year, and Penny, being a food lover, thought of 佛跳牆 (Buddha Jumps over the Wall, shortened to Buddha Jump for the band name). The delicacy is made of shark’s fin, scallops, sea cucumber, abalone, fish maw, chicken and pork. It is stewed over a small flame for hours to become a flavorful broth.
“It is very similar to the band’s character. And we all love to eat good food. So we decided on the name,” the band told migme.
Here is the Q&A we did with them in Mandarin.
從成員因為黃中岳老師的牽線而相遇說起，提到大家因為戴佩妮，在 2011 年的一封組團邀請信，而從伴奏樂隊，變成今天佛跳牆的六人搖滾樂團。
佛跳牆成團開始於一封信。有天生日，戴佩妮喝了點酒，傳了封 email 給 D-Power 團員。信件標題寫著「我承認我很想瘋」：
「我已經五天沒出門了。我知道簽了約我也未必會開心，所以決定在入獄前好好享受自由的空氣，再做一張專輯或 EP。我想好好享受做 indie 的快樂，各位一起來瘋嗎？