With travel restrictions having hobbled Hong Kong’s image and reputation as an international city, we’re pretty much left to our own devices and trying to make the best of an imperfect situation as those in charge bumble around us and keep moving the goalposts to show that they’re doing something.
It’s a bit like being The Bird Man Of Alcatraz and having to fend for one’s self with nothing new coming in. Not even a couple of swallows from Capistrano.
Those who can, have either left Hong Kong or are making plans to leave though the choices for that next port of call are somewhat thin on the ground.
This dilemma can only work two ways: Stay put and improve whatever is your lot in life or leave for new shores, and if time is on your side, try to restart the internal engine all over again. That’s bloody tiring in a world that’s pretty much outta sync.
Musically, at least as far as the Hong Kong entertainment bubble of local Chinese audiences is concerned, everything starts and stops with that Baker’s Dozen that is 12 member Canto Pop boy band Mirror.
Sure, Mirror is selling style over substance. It’s an obvious copy of K-Pop, and a younger version of Nineties Canto Pop, but it’s working. It’s working through everything that has nothing to do with music. There’s apparently a new single out, but its popularity doesn’t matter.
What does matter are promotions and more promotions and marketing activities galore sponsored by everyone from McDonald’s to Samsung to feed the voracious appetites of their fans. In the wings is an eagerly anticipated series of concerts at the Colosseum in summer.
It’s all come together to make this Mirror image work. It’s working and making the local population of all ages very happy.
What’s the option?
For most Cantonese speaking audiences, Mirror is safe, commercial, but their popularity alone does nothing for Hong Kong being seen as an international city.
There’s gotta be more than a Canto Pop act for a home based audience. For this to happen there must be tourism. But how? And with what?
With less and less foreigners living in Hong Kong these days, the marketing of Mirror is to be expected.
This focus on Think Local, Act Local isn’t going to change anytime soon. It’s going to last for at least another years- and that’s being a cockeyed optimist.
The bottom line is that the standard of everything in Hong Kong has been brought down several notches- the standard of English, the level of creativity, commitment to making things better etc etc. These days, Okay is good enough.
When it comes to the small legion of foreign audiences, or those looking for an alternative to Canto Pop, one has to settle for whatever is around.
Often it’s whatever ‘live’ gigs are available on a rickety old platform featuring the usual mature musical suspects still making the rounds and glad handing those who have something for them.
They’re now at least 20 years older, nothing has improved and it is what it is.
It’s also where Hong Kong has come unstuck and is stuck: the past.
This is where, personally speaking, there’s respect for the cosmopolitan outfit that is Indigo Town who start performing at Adrenaline tonight.
They’re all good musicians, they’re way ahead of the curve than many here today in that they’re honest about social media and streaming services whereas what they create and play is fresh. It’s not more dim sum and then some and just going through the motions.
Of course, Indigo Town hasn’t been able to perform to audiences for some time, but they are starting to make themselves heard again as venues in the city slowly open up and there’s still an audience wanting to hear something new.
When chatting recently on what’s called The HE Podcasts with vocalist John Gil and guitarist Brendon Gold, it was refreshing to hear two musicians with opinions and ideas rather than another serving of waffles and clichés.
Both are under no false illusions about anything. They know that it’s helluva tough to have their music heard, and seem to be going through their own process of internalising and peeling away layers until arriving at the core of what really matters- their new music and how best to market it.
They don’t have the big management machinery and sponsorship opportunities of Mirror behind them and realise that one size doesn’t fit all.
With the Happy Wednesday brand slowly opening up, the venue Adrenaline is doing the best it can to bring back ‘live’ music- both on the ground and online with musicians from overseas and whom we have been working and recording during the Great Lockdown.
With so many restrictions and different sets of rules and regulations which could even be seen as having been made up to stymie progress and curtail kickstarting things, as a venue, we’re nowhere near to what I would like us to be.
Having said this, maybe with other online platforms we have created for the Happy Wednesday brand, pockets of creativity can come together from the global creative community.
It just might be the inspiration and motivation needed to create the Big New Picture missing in Hong Kong.
There’s a lethargy here that’s hard to shake off. It’s often all about taking the money, playing for time and paying lip service.
Where’s pride in ownership?
Being on Repeat is being on Repeat is being on Repeat and sooner rather than later, things will be on Rewind and heading nowhere.
Thinking beyond the obvious is needed more than ever- for the future of the next Hong Kong and wherever music is going to come out of a city that has never had anything else other than the Cha Cha, Canto Pop and foreign covers bands and hotel lounge singers.
If there’s anything positive to come out of this situation, it’s that anything different would be a breakthrough from what has always been style over substance and how Okay is good enough.
Okay is never good enough.
It’s time to work with artists like Indigo Town who can make good new things happen.
It’s time to work together for the better good of a city that’s Humpty Dumpty and needs help in being put together again.