Chinese talent show captivates Taiwanese viewers

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A Chinese singing competition that has captivated television viewers in Taiwan is raising concerns about China’s cultural influence on the island.

“I Am A Singer” features professional singers from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong in a tense competition. The slickly produced show earned top ratings and even attracted veteran singers to try their luck and revive their careers.

Friday night’s final episode of the Hunan Satellite TV station show featured four Taiwanese and three mainland Chinese competitors, and many Taiwanese TV stations aired part or all of the finale, won by Chinese duo Yu Quan.

Taiwan’s Terry Lin and Aska Yang were runners-up. Taiwanese veterans Julia Peng and Winnie Hsin, who ranked fifth and sixth, got a chance to show their exuberant singing and become the sensations they didn’t earlier in their long careers.

Taiwan-produced songs and music programs once dominated Mandarin song markets. But over the past decade, many of its top singers have left the island for the fast-growing Chinese market.

Taiwan’s Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai says the island’s edge in the pop-song market may be fading quickly.

Several Taiwanese cable stations aired long segments about the show in their newscasts to meet the intense interest of Taiwanese.

Taiwanese regulators say they are looking into another cable news station for airing the entire five-hour show live without the required prior approval, possibly breaking a law aimed to limit influence from the Communist neighbor.

Taiwan has its own popular talent shows, but critics say the local programs fail to stir such sensation as “I Am A Singer,” which features stunning sound and light effects and movie-quality videos introducing singers’ lives and struggles for success backstage.

“It is more than a singing competition, but a finely produced show with a well-crafted script and editing,” Taiwan song producer Chen Kuo-hua told a TVBS program discussing the Chinese talent show.

Taiwan-produced music once dominated the Mandarin song markets in East and Southeast Asia, with its vibrant and free society cultivating its many talents. But the island has lost many of its singers to a fast-growing Chinese market boosted by free-spending productions.

Lung, the culture minister, said she was “stunned” that the Chinese talent show was able to put as many as 38 cameras to work simultaneously to capture the best details of the performance.

Taiwan may still have a leading edge in Chinese pop songs, she said, noting that even the mainland singers sang Taiwan-produced songs at the talent show.

But Taiwan must work harder to keep the edge or lose it, she warned.

“Will Taiwan retain its abundant talents in pop culture 30 years from now?” she asked.

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