Music in Hong Kong and its changing of the guard...
Apart from everything else, what Hong Kong needs is music- music in all its many forms, but especially good, new music made by a younger generation of music makers for what one hopes will be a new generation of forward looking taste makers.
It’s about the baton being passed, or pried away from the hands of those who refuse to change with the times or understand that irrelevance has set in and how this isn’t exactly a good ‘look’ unless maybe on Facebook, where Eleanor Rigby and all the other lonely people meet.
Everything must change and has changed and there are some very good young Hong Kong Chinese musicians making music, mainly in Chinese, and for the new and next Hong Kong- artists who are in a different key of life to those who have come before like the Four Heavenly Kings and J-Pop and K-Pop copycats.
These are also music makers who have grown up in a very different Hong Kong.
During these days and years of strict social distancing measures, some have not known about playing ‘live’ at venues like Orange Peel, Foxglove etc.
They’ve had to make their own opportunities and this is bound to have impacted their thinking, their music and how they see themselves progressing with this music to new audiences- and maybe not necessarily in Hong Kong, but across the border.
Anyone who has been in Hong Kong, and in the music industry for as long as I have, knows who’s come before, who has mattered, and also why Western music was left to sink or swim decades ago by the international music companies and the local entertainment media.
This had to do with looking at where there was a huge business pie with many pieces to go around by producing cookie cutter Canto Pop- my term for it when writing for Billboard- to its extremely large Hong Kong Chinese audiences through concerts, television appearances on countless awards shows, touring, and what used to be known as record sales.
Of course there have been people trying to create a better balance by, at the very least, bringing in something new for Western audiences in Hong Kong that wasn’t another covers act performing Funky Town at Dusk Till Dawn in Wanchai.
Did their good intentions bring about change?
What matters is that whatever and whoever happened ten years ago is now ten years older. Same with who and what happened twenty years ago, right?
There’s nothing like stating the obvious, but there are those times when this is needed, because, well, once anything or anyone becomes irrelevant...
Now, in 2022 and coming onto another new year, Hong Kong has changed from being “Asia’s world city”.
Some have bailed whereas the old familiar names often selling things way past their Use By date are still around because this is all they know.
Forgetting crass clichés like “reinventing oneself” and how “outta chaos comes opportunities”, there’s a need for new everything- entrepreneurs, especially with the financial capital to revive industries, and every form of art led by new music makers.
Of course this is easy enough to say, but standing in the way are a number of huge stumbling blocks- lack of tourism, motivation that’s often tough to find, and ball busting restrictions as to why something and anything cannot be done.
Hear that sound? It’s called silence, and inside this silence is a mix of jealousy, hypocrisy, elitism, ageism, ingratitude, selective memory recall and social media politics and fakery.
These are all reasons why, apart from what passes itself off as a “music scene”, Hong Kong is the broken city that it is with a massive drop in creative standards.
Who on earth, for instance at the HSBC approved the cringeworthy work below- and why?
The series of interviews below with John and Brendan from Indigo Town are interesting to listen to and offer some glimpses into what’s been happening to them and ways of perhaps taking the needle off that Repeat button.
To tap into the creative side of Hong Kong music today, there’s an excellent compilation on Spotify called Homegrown HK Playlist- eight hours of music featuring a wide variety of Hong Kong based artists, a few being very very good.
Listening to Andy is Typing and their track “Forget Me Not” which features Cy Leo, there’s something more than interesting happening.
What it is can’t really be described. This is a good thing. It’s not LIKE anything. It’s music that goes against the flow and with no labels. It’s genre proof.
Here’s hoping there’s a new generation of music makers out there in Hong Kong with a different mindset and who understand that the online numbers game is not working and is hardly honest.
The time has come, like the Walrus said, to speak of many things- like being honest, especially with one’s self, admitting that the old ways are not working and that fairy godmothers only exist in fairy tales.
Just maybe this honesty, as it did for music pioneers like those songwriters and musicians in Tin Pan Alley and the Brill Building, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis, Chet Baker, the Beatles and others, will bring about change- change which audiences can actually hear in the new music being made...like the music of Andy is Typing, Indigo Town and others from where they’ve come...
It’s a new journey and no one can tell what good things- good new things- there might be along the way...and which will bring about much needed ch-ch-ch-ch- changes.