Article by Matt Taylor
Graphics by Allison Sun
Editor's Note: Following on from our 'Songs of Defiance' piece on LGBTIQ Mandopop, the recent Hong Kong protests caught our attention and made us think about the Cantopop canon in a new light. If 'Songs of Defiance' define the spirit of musical and societal interactions in Taiwan, 'Songs of Survival' truly represent Hong Kong's brand of fighting spirit.
The word ‘Cantopop’ is one that immediately brings to mind legends such as Sam Hui 許冠傑, Anita Mui 梅艳芳, and Jacky Cheung張學友. A symbol of Hong Kong’s reputation as the cultural powerhouse of the Chinese-speaking world in the 1980s; these artists and many more were the embodiment of a cultural and economic golden age with their soaring ballads, irresistible dance numbers, and elaborate over-the-top performances. By the 1990s however, the rise of China as a potential market and the impending handover of Hong Kong to the Beijing government seemed to have set the industry on a seemingly irreversible decline.
As such, it makes sense that contemporary iterations of Cantopop are also inherently political - an intrinsic barrier to the Mainland’s Mandarin-language culture homogenization efforts. In a fight to keep alive Hong Kong’s uniqueness and autonomy as a nation; people are clinging to Cantopop in a last-ditch survival effort to express their identity and be heard.
Especially given the recent protests surrounding a controversial extradition bill, Cantopop is emerging more and more as a critical mouthpiece for the people of Hong Kong. Here we look at the ways Hong Kongers are using the Cantopop canon to make their voices heard.
By Matt Taylor
When it comes to defining who is the Queen of Mandopop or Queen of Cantopop, debates can be heated as fans fight for their favourite to wear the prestigious crown. There are very few who have credible claim to these revered titles, and one of that small handful is Sandy Lam林憶蓮. Since her debut Cantonese album in 1985, Sandy has gone on to be a defining figure in Chinese-language music. What has always set her apart from her peers is not just her incredible commercial success; but her ability to transform, and willingness to step outside of the frameworks of the genre and industries in which she operates.
With the news that Sandy plans to bow out of the music world, now seems the appropriate time for us to take a look back at her astonishing career, and at how she’s shaped and influenced the worlds of Cantonese & Mandarin music. How did a teenage part-time DJ become one of the most prolific Chinese-language artists of the 20th and 21st centuries?