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Why Hong Kong is looking for solace in Cantopop

Edan Lui Of Boy Band Mirror Is Surrounded By FansGetty Images

Life in Hong Kong has been reshaped as Beijing has more and more tightened its grip over almost each facet of life within the metropolis. But Cantopop stays a venue for these within the metropolis to hunt solace and categorical their collective identification, because the BBC’s Grace Tsoi writes.

It was an accident that shocked a lot of Hong Kong: an enormous display fell and injured two dancers throughout a live performance by vastly widespread boy band Mirror.

But the collective outpouring of emotion was additionally attributable to what Mirror had come to characterize – a uncommon supply of pleasure for a lot of within the metropolis after years of political upheaval.

Mirror is extensively credited for reviving Cantopop – music sung in Cantonese, the primary language utilized in Hong Kong and an integral half to town’s cultural identification. Most of mainland China communicates in Mandarin.

The music type’s enchantment had beforehand been dwindling.

“Cantopop was formulaic, just like canned food,” says Jeng Lau, a advertising skilled in her 30s who discovered herself turning to Taiwanese and Japanese bands as an alternative.

Hong Kong is a former British colony and is supposed to get pleasure from sure rights, like freedom of meeting and freedom of speech, that aren’t accessible in mainland China.

But in 2019, plans to go an extradition legislation sparked fears that Beijing was rising its management. People got here out onto the streets and there have been months of anti-government protests.

Beijing then launched a sweeping nationwide safety legislation (NSL), which critics say reduces town’s judicial autonomy and makes it simpler to punish activists.

About 200 individuals have since been arrested below the NSL alone, together with pro-democracy lawmakers.

On the floor, it could look like this once-rebellious metropolis has now fallen silent – however followers say the one factor they’ll nonetheless cling on to is Cantopop.

“Life in Hong Kong is depressing. Your friends and family are leaving and every day we seem to lose abstract things like [our] freedom,” stated Jane Chan, a 28-year-old within the schooling sector.

“So it’s so precious for us to witness [a band like] Mirror, something that is local and tangible, that can still grow and thrive [during these times].”

A golden age

Cantopop has all the time been integral to the distinctive Hong Kong identification, which began to type throughout the former British colony’s financial rise within the 1970s.

The 1980s and 1990s have been the golden age of Hong Kong popular culture. Cantopop was an necessary cultural export, successful followers in mainland China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia.

But from the 2000s, the Cantopop market slowly shrunk, with many Hong Kong artists focusing their careers on the mainland market and followers turning to Mandopop and Ok-pop.

Exhibition: &Quot;Ambiguously Yours: Gender In Hong Kong Popular Culture&Quot;


That decline has now reversed.

“Pop culture has become a site of preservation for people to reminisce about what Hong Kong people miss,” stated cultural commentator Chiu Wan.

“For example, a song about bidding farewell to an ex-lover can be understood as dedicated to friends who moved abroad or even a hometown that people are no longer familiar with.”

Data from KKBOX, one of the widespread music streaming platforms within the metropolis, discovered that Hong Kong customers spent 25% extra time streaming Cantopop in 2021 in comparison with 2020. Eight of the ten most performed songs final yr on the platform have been associated to Mirror.

Ms Lau is among the many individuals whose curiosity in Cantopop has been reignited.

“We can see how the regime is suppressing the Hong Kong identity, and we want to protect it,” stated Ms Lau.

“Cantonese is very important to us, and Cantopop plays an important role in safeguarding Cantonese.”

Mired in uncertainty

Mirror fashioned out of a actuality present in 2018 and rapidly shot to fame.

The development just isn’t all one-way although.

Many of town’s older stars have shifted their focus to the mainland market – performing in New Year’s Eve exhibits held by regional TV channels – below the identify of singers from the Greater Bay Area, a authorities plan to combine Hong Kong into the mainland’s Guangdong province..

With its inhabitants of 1.three billion, it is not laborious to determine what attracts pop stars to the Chinese mainland. However, it additionally comes with sure situations.

Jackson Wang, for instance, was born in Hong Kong and used to hold a Hong Kong flag and put on a hat with town’s image. But he later switched to carrying a Chinese flag on his live performance tour.

There can also be criticism of how Hong Kong’s music business operates, with the damage to Mirror’s dancers highlighting questionable security requirements.

Mirror Held Its First Concert Last Year

Getty Images

It is now unclear if Mirror will proceed to carry out. The band’s destiny is mired in uncertainty – very similar to town itself.

“The Mirror fever, to a large extent, is a healing project, but now it has become another trauma. No one could have guessed it,” stated Ms Chiu.

But Cantopop stays a free channel of expression for now – regardless of occasional criticism from officers that tradition and artwork are nonetheless being utilized in “soft resistance”.

“Hong Kongers are very creative. They will use more subtle ways if authorities do not allow more explicit expressions,” stated Ms Lau.


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