Vancouver musician Van Lefan feels that songs are a way for different generations to communicate. It’s why the Taiwanese Canadian artist is spearheading a morning of music connecting a contemporary audience with popular Chinese and Taiwanese tunes from the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s.
“My main focus is just going to be singing and storytelling,” Lefan tells Pancouver by phone. “All of the songs that I’ve chosen, expect for a couple of original songs, are songs that I’ve learned through my parents.”
Lefan says that she may also play some flute and guitar. However, she emphasizes that most of the guitarwork will be by Thomas Hoeller. He oversaw production of Lefan’s 2022 debut album, What Holds Us Together, which explored identity, ancestral knowledge, ecological justice, and healing.
According to Lefan, some in her generation are familiar with some of the older popular Chinese-language music.
“I have spoken to a few of my Taiwanese friends that are around my age,” she says. “It’s like they find that they forgot it existed. But once they hear it, it brings up something in them from their childhood and family that they didn’t really know was there.”
Watch Lefan’s official music video for “The Lesson”.
Lefan works on new EP
Lefan, who immigrated to B.C. as a child, describes this as “cultural nostalgia”. She came up with the playlist on her own, recalling what her parents sang in the home, car, or at karaoke.
“They are songs that had been circulating in my family and most Taiwanese households for decades.”
Meanwhile, on October 18, Lefan will join Cantonese singer Jason Qui or a similar event. It will take place 11:15 a.m. at the Annex as part of the Jade Music Fest. This event is also free.
Lefan says that she’s invited her friend, Cindy Kao, to play violin at the second event.
Currently, Lefan is working on a new EP. She will perform one or two of the new songs at Time to Play for Lost Time on Friday.
She will also sing a song with lyrics written by the famous Taiwanese writer Sanmao. Also known by the pen name Echo Chen Ping, she travelled from Taiwan to Europe on her own at the age of 20 in the early 1960s.
“This woman lived this amazing life,” Lefan says. “I feel this inspiration and connection to her and her life and her story through the art that she left behind.”
Lefan recognizes that the songwriters who crafted music nearly a century ago in China and Taiwan probably had no idea that it would be performed in Canada now.
“I think that’s a good motivator for my own creativity—this idea of when we make art and write songs, it will live on for a long time after we will.”
BC Culture Days and the Jade Music Fest present Time to Play for the Lost Time at 10 a.m. on Friday (October 13) at Gateway Theatre (6500 Gilbert Road) in Richmond. This event is free and the venue is wheelchair accessible with gender-neutral washrooms.
On October 18, Van Lefan will join Jason Qiu at Time to Play for the Lost Time at 11:15 a.m. in the Annex as part of the Jade Music Fest.