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.
*Jamie Deer/APW Interview* Up close & personal with Jacky Cheung : There is a kind of persistence called diligence (Official English interview translation)
Interview: Jamie Deer
Article: Jamie Deer, Jocelle Koh
Special Thanks/Photographs provided by: Universal Music
Note from the translator (Jocelle): For all English speaking Jacky Cheung fans out there, you’re in luck! I’m very happy to be able to collaborate on this project with notable Taiwanese music journalist Jamie Deer, who has very kindly provided me with the rights to officially translate his interview with Mandopop King Jacky Cheung. It details the painstakingly meticulous work that went into Cheung’s latest album <Wake Up Dreaming>, inspiring fans with his motivation to attain nothing less than perfection. An album like none he has ever created before, its intricate concept will wow listeners, as will the pedantic details and personal motivations Jacky shares with Jamie in this exclusive interview.
<Wake Up Dreaming> is Mandopop legend Jacky Cheung’s phenomenal 57th album to date, and has certainly been a long time in the making. Inspired by Elton John’s live performance with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 1987, Jacky has fiddled with this album’s concept for over a decade, before finally taking the plunge and releasing this album last December. It seems to me that this album is not just a drop in a hat for the Mandopop king who was most recently nominated at the 26th Golden Melody Awards; it encompasses complex ideas even the king himself is hard-pressed to put into words. But what certainly comes shining through in this album is his admirable motivation to better his music for himself and for his fans, even given his status as one of the most venerable artists in the industry.
Q1: Can I get you to once again introduce your album <Wake Up Dreaming>?
I spent a lot of effort in creating this <Wake Up Dreaming> album; other than taking on the role of artist in this album I was also the producer for this album, taking on much of the album with a hands-on approach. At the very beginning the concept for this album was to create an ‘orchestral and rock’ studio album but after creating half of it a couple of the songs were swapped for a few others which were a little different. The repetitiveness of the arrangement was just too much at that point, so the album and the genres everyone hears in this album are different from before. But there are a few songs which are more folksy, those were the songs I just couldn’t bear to not put in the album.
So in conclusion <Wake Up Dreaming> is an album which represents my musical style, preferences and orientation, and is not an album with a very clear concept.
Q2: So at the beginning the album was meant to be produced as an ‘orchestral and rock’ studio album?
At the beginning it was agreed that this would be the direction we would move in, but the things that we created began to become too similar to each other, even when I myself listened to it it really gave me pressure. I still wish that when everyone is listening to this album they can feel a little more at ease, with a little bit of different music entering their ears. So at the end I decided to divert from the original plan, and with this kind of modification, actually this is the direction I most love going in when I am creating an album.