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    Chapter 114: Canto pop Published Date: 2008/2/4

Written: Kwan Yiu Tung

Indie Music Merged with Mainstream Cantopop

     Commercial Radio 2s giving of the golden group award to Hip-hop group

    FAMA (農夫) instead of Twins earlier on surprised the public very much. Some regarded FAMA as a newcomer was not yet qualified for the honour. As a matter of fact, FAMA was formed 8 years ago. Since they play hip-hop, an alternative in Hong Kong not very compatible with the predominant canto pop, they were for a long time liked by just a few. Of late, there have been some weakening signs of Canto pop, which we can see from the integration of alternative music into the mainstream. FAMAs CR2 award is a telling proof. 6Wing said on stage, I didnt know rap would

    bring me here. The blossom of our music is to be seen in the coming future.

In the Past

     In the past, there was a clear divide between mainstream and alternative music.

     Commercial singers or bands are employed by big record labels or agency companies and are organised and supported by the latter in releasing albums, performing in shows, planning promotions, etc. In order to earn as much as possible, these companies influence and advise signers to produce the most popular music. They also make use of abundant capital to fight for the maximum publicity possible for their singers and songs alike and as such, mass media like radio stations, TV stations and advertisement are without exception flooded by this

    commercial-oriented music. It is the same mass media that organise the year-end award-giving ceremonies and naturally mainstream commercial singers do not let slip away any of the awards.

Between Mainstream and Indie

     The most popular music shows a clear production pattern. To maximise their market share, all companies produce canto pop along with each other. However, there are all sorts of music genres in the world, rock, punk, jazz, hip-hop, R&B, disco, grunge you name it. None of these, however, can gain a place in the mainstream and are lumped together under the umbrella of alternative music.

     In the 80s, popular singers like Allen Tam Wing-lun (譚詠麟), Leslie Cheung

    Kwok-wing (張國榮) and Anita Mui Yim-fong (梅艷芳) made it to the Hong Kong

    Coliseum to hold concerts one after another and from then on it is a

    Liberal-studies, Hong Kong Economic Times ?2008

    Chapter 114: Canto pop Published Date: 2008/2/4

    dream-come-true to perform on stage there for the coming generations of commercial singers. As for alternative music, their main stages include the Academic Community Hall of Hong Kong Baptist University and the Ko Shan Theatre in Hung Hom. Cantotop followers in Hong Kong Coliseum and rock n roll

    buffs (愛好者) clearly do not themselves to be of the same rank nor share any common interest in music. How die-hard they are!

     Underground ground bands (地下樂隊) or indie bands(獨立樂隊) are names

    we give to these alternative musicians. As record labels do not recognise them, they have to be financially independent. Most of these musicians have full-time jobs to supplement their various expenses on buying equipment, renting venues and releasing albums. It is imaginable how tight their budgets and how hard their life can be, completely different from our enviable perceptions of mainstream singers.

Rapping was my advanced studies, rapping was my only job

    I rapped till my bank account went red

    FAMA (456wing)

Four Tributaries since the Turn of Millennium

     From the downfall of band sounds in the late 80s to the latter period of the Four Heavenly Kings, Hong Kong mainstream music scene has always been the

    stage of canto-pop. Every now and then, we had something exotic, but nothing could be changed fundamentally. Jan Lamb Hoi-fung (林海峰)s Pop Song mocks at the

    fact that mot canto pop songs have be stereotyped the song is in AABA form,

    backed by a pianistic adagio (慢板) and accompanied by lyrics like repeat after

    repeat as well as ‘triplet triplet’ (三連音) At the same time, canto pop tend to have

    simple melodies that are catchy to cater for karaoke lovers.

     Later on, alternative music gradually exerted more influence on commercial music such that there were more and more variations and forms, especially since the turn of the millennium. While music labels were willing to develop alternative music, they didnt spare themselves the task of adding pop elements into it. For instance, since FAMA gained mainstream popularity, they rapped and wrote lyrics on social affairs pretty much like they used to do, but the trademark rage and furore (狂怒) are

    largely gone in their new songs. In return, we see them make fun of life in a pretty laid-back (輕鬆) way. From the market response we know their repackaging has been immensely successful.

     Influenced by and merged with alterative music, numerous sub-genres of music

    Liberal-studies, Hong Kong Economic Times ?2008

    Chapter 114: Canto pop Published Date: 2008/2/4

    were derived from cantopop. These days we have quite a few newcomers who are intent on developing these new music forms and have been recognised by different award-givers.

Canto pop x R&B

    Representatives: Jay Chou Jie-lun (周杰倫), Hins Cheung King Hin (張敬軒),

    Khalil Fong (方大同)

Trivia R&B

    Rhythm & blues originally referred to the mixture of blues and jazz music by African-Americans. Wind instruments like saxophone were widely used back then to produce slow and sad rhythms. Gradually a strong emphasis was placed on beats and more electronica was added to it. As for their vocals, most singers have smooth and thick voices. R&B developed to bread other music forms like soul and rock n roll.

Canto pop x Hip-hop/Rap

    Representatives: Edison Chen Kwoon-Hei (陳冠希), FAMA, LMF

Trivia Hip-hop

    Hip-hop first developed in the African-American communities in New York City. It typically consists of a rhythmic style of speaking called rap over backing beats performed on a turntable by a DJ while its lyrics are usually what singers would like to say about society.

Canto pop x Rock

    Representative: Endy Chow kwok-yin (周國賢), Soler, Juicyning

Trivia Rock

    Rock music usually has a prominent passionate vocal melody accompanied by guitar, drums, and bass, often with controversial and bold representations. It style is often mixed with psychedelic (迷幻), heavy metal and punk.

Canto Singer-Songwriter

    Representative: at17, Chet Lam Yat-fung (林一峰), Cheer Chen Chi Chen (陳綺貞)

Trivia Singer-song writer

    Singer-song writers refer to those whose lyrics and melodies are written and performed both vocally and instrumentally in piano or guitar by themselves. Their songs more often than not sound pure and fresh.

    Liberal-studies, Hong Kong Economic Times ?2008

    Chapter 114: Canto pop Published Date: 2008/2/4

Demise of Canto-pop, Rise of Indie Music

     Why has the then clear divide between canto pop and alternative music ceased to exist and even merged?

     On the one hand, some explain that record labels use the dated idol-making

    way to package music, shifting the emphasis from songs to singers, so that the final quality of songs is simply neglected. On the other hand, the cadre members (班底)

    stick to the old ways by producing in a very standardised way. All this has contributed to the deteriorating attractiveness of canto pop and audiences switching

    to other music forms.

     In the early 90s, the mass media in Hong Kong was not as developed as it is now, with the internet in its infant stage, Hong Kong people got their musical knowledge only from a handful of broadcasting stations and the press. Through close cooperation with the media, record labels could keep the sorts of music people get in touch with and their taste in hands, the result being our listening solely to canto pop. Fancy a bit of punk? Sorry, it was just not something you could easily get hold of. I would have suggested you go to record stores to consult assistants.

     The advancement in information technology later on spoke for itself (不言而

    ). Western, Southeast Asian and Japanese music knowledge became all-pervasive (無孔不入) while quality alternative music genres surfaced. Now more people know about what was known to be minority music, which renders its spread at an unprecedented speed. Canto pop, as we mentioned earlier, is made in a rough and slipshod style (粗製濫造) with little creativity and monotonous melodies and lyrics. Under constant comparisons, it is criticised by more people, urging the public to try their hand at something new.

    Liberal-studies, Hong Kong Economic Times ?2008

    Chapter 114: Canto pop Published Date: 2008/2/4

Liberal Studies through Lyrics

     Many people have become a fan of FAMA, especially their lyrics. They are fresh and humorous. More importantly, they are always to the point. Their latest album Fung Sang Shui Hei (風生水起) is richer in terms of its scope of lyrics. They rap about everything - students, white collars, stock speculators and local citizens. We cannot help but wonder how these lyrics can be so insightful. One laughs sympathetically, not without introspection though.

There Is No End in Studying

    Music: DJ Galaxy

    Lyrics: 6Wing, C Kwun

    Comments: It depicts secondary school students go to school every day for the sake of going to school. While they are disoriented, they are still capable of making fun out of sadness. Traces of our collective memories can be seen. How can they not be resonant with our own past?

     The general public seem

    Famas academy is where good life begins to go with the belief that

    There are two disciplinary teachers, namely 6wing and C Kwun Why is it that senior Good Academic

    We strive to be a better person formers are braver in Performance = Good

    And get 30 points in HKCEE plagiarising or not doing Prospects = Good Life.

     their homework? Do you How about you?

    Our homework is either done by copying or left done think not handing in

    Our teacher either scolds or goes out of the classroom homework mirrors

    For what do teacher We study to learn words, to get a certificate irresponsibility?

    usually students? Do you Or to please my mom?

    think their ground is

    reasonable? Do you think C’mon, get some knowledge but even more sleep to comfort yourselves

    As the lyrics read, teachers work under heavy During lessons you better slack and treat yourselves with snacks

    why do we study? pressure? On sports grounds you better strive and dedicate all your efforts

    We fall asleep easily during lessons but our energy level

    lifts the very second we step onto the sports ground. Do

    you think it has to do with objective conditions or

    psychological reasons? Except snacking, are there any

    other ways to refresh ourselves? Try to suggest the forms

    of education in which students are less likely to