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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 doze off.

    Liberal-studies, Hong Kong Economic Times ?2008

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

Happenings in Ten Years

    Music: DJ Galaxy

    Lyrics: C Kwun

    Comments: Ten years into the handover, FAMA followed the trend and partnered with To Kit to rap about what has happened. We know then singers have to read newspapers. From the lyrics below, do you know which incidents are referred to?

    On the night of July the first, the fireworks were simply splendid Ten years passed by the Lion Rock. It ended in a sudden but seemed like forever A Politics was fluctuating and idols gone B

    We walked at the foot of the Lion Rock over the last ten years till the sunset was



    Was it bad luck brought by Mr Tung or did it just happen to be a financial crisis?

    The news keeps saying how good these ten years have been

    Of later the economy has got better, so we follow our old track

    E We look at indices

    Do earn more while you can for it pays better than getting a few jobs

    In the past we had mainland workers, now they are travellers D

    Spending thousands each in Hong Kong

    F The Queens Pier is to be torn down

    So is that publishing street in Wanchai

    I dont know what will become of them

    G The Victoria Harbour is transformed every year

    Just like a transformer, it will soon turn into the Victoria River

     News Events

    A Tung Chee-hwa, in his 8 years of rule, was often criticised for speaking a lot

    but having little done and for being too idealistic and not pragmatic. He ate

    his words soon when something went very wrong. The lyricist describes him

    as fluctuating, for instance;housing project, ; harbour and ; hub.

    B Between 02 and 04, Hong Kong was in a distressing situation, with four

    prominent stars passing one after another, ; (02), ; (03), ; (03) and

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    ; (04). Our spirits were given a blow once again.

    C In 1997 numerous Asian currencies underwent depreciation. Corporations

    had for long borrowed the US dollars to finance their needs, which then

    became too heavy a burden for them. Financial speculators led by ; made

    big money out of different national stock markets where indices plummeted,

    currencies depreciated and the economy shattered. The Hong Kong

    government, with a view to maintaining its ; exchange syste, interfered

    with the market. Thats why we have _ fund.

    D From the mid-03 onwards, the Central Government allowed part of the

    mainland citizens to visit Hong Kong as travellers, bringing in countless ;

    and invigorating the economy at once. It is about to be extended to 18

    provinces and 49 municipals, accounting for 290 million people.

    E Benefited from policies, mainland capitals rushed into the Hong Kong stock

    market, of which some went public, driving our indices up in the past few

    years. The Hang Seng Index has once reached ;, but is now at a much

    lower level.

    F Thanks to the launch of the New Central Harbourfront in 06, the tower clock

    (鐘樓) was demolished. Even though the clock tower was torn down, its ;

    was kept intact and sent to a museum. This incident stirred up a wave of

    heated discussions concerning heritage conservation in Hong Kong.

    The government made use of ; to solve the land shortage starting from the G

    colonial time. The Victoria Harbour shrinks incessantly. The ; Ordinance

    bans any reclamation works, unless there is an overriding public need. In the

    past few years, community organisations often took the government to the

    court over this reason.

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

    Fung Sang Shui Hei

    Music: DJ Galaxy

    Lyrics: 6Wing, C Kwun

    Comments: Mak Ling-ling features in the song and raps out some feng shui

    principles with respect to our facial features. This was the song that made FAMA so

    popular. Why was it popular, its groundbreaking concepts or Maks calculations?

    Does the feng shui Ling-ling is here to read your palms

    Do you agree master attract you to FAMA is going to get another award this year

    with this listen to this song? Do

    saying? you think FAMA Your destiny counts most, followed by luck and feng shui

    deserve to get an Turns in life can be favourable and unfavourable. For how long will it stay

    award? unfavourable?

     Why was he born to be better off?

    Does the lyricist regard Why is my house smaller than his toilet?

    feng shui or numerology And why do I only get one number correct each time I buy Mark Six?

    as something important?

    What does compass It is important to read your compass correctly

    Different people have refer to here? And much less so what people say about you

    different upbringings. Have

    you ever felt unfair about

    this like the lyrics? What do

    you think can help improve

    your spells of fortune, feng

    shui or others?

    Question to Think about:

    1. Some criticise FAMA for the lack of discontent towards society in their songs,

    which is a infraction of the hip-hop spirits. What do you think?

    2. Telecommunication is extremely well-developed today. Except for integrating

    alternative music into the mainstream, how else can it affect the world music


    Liberal-studies, Hong Kong Economic Times ?2008

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

Liberal-studies, Hong Kong Economic Times ?2008

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