28 December 2009
My favourite Hong Kong indie album for 2009 - My Little Airport's fourth album, Poetics. Something Between Montparnasse and Mongkok. Having said that, there's lots of live music about, but it hasn't been much of a year for those of us who like to listen at home. I think I only bought four CDs all year, which means that compiling the Time Out Best of Hong Kong Indie 2009 podcast couldn't have been that easy. Worth a listen even though half the bands haven't actually put out a CD yet. MLA's Donald Tsang, Please Die! is in there, but I wonder if they couldn't find space for Velvette Vendetta and Ketchup - two acts that did release CDs during the year.
05 November 2009
In the 1980s, Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng's (Deng Lijun)songs were officially banned in China, but countless pirate cassettes were circulated. The saying went around that Deng Xiaoping ruled China by day, but Deng Lijun ruled by night. It seems that not much has changed. Apple Daily had a recent report on an internet poll asking which cultural icon has had the greatest influence on China since since 1949. 24 million voted and Teresa won with 8.5 million votes. Next came Faye Wong with 7.5 million, and in third place Jay Chou.
Teresa Teng sang in Mandarin and Cantonese, but also recorded songs in English, Japanese, Taiwanese, Indonesian and Vietnamese. The image is from a CD reissue of a selection of English and Japanese songs that originally came out in 1976.
31 October 2009
Where would you go to buy second hand vinyl in Hong Kong? Where else but from Paul, who has far more than he can handle. And at last he has a card to show for it. Paul is a great character, speaks English and loves to talk about records. He reckons he has around 200,000 discs, which makes it a little bit difficult to browse. So give him a call, tell him what you want and see what happens. If you read Chinese, you can find more stores on the maps at HC Lee's Vinyl Paradise. But beware! It hasn't been updated for a while and some have closed down.
26 October 2009
A while back I wrote about Japanese-English bilingual songs in the early '50s. Here's one from further back still - Betty Inada singing Happy Days Are Here Again (1929) first in Japanese and then in English. Betty Inada was a nisei (second generation Japanese) who came over from San Francisco and was in on the start of the 1930s jazz boom. There were numerous bilingual recordings in the 1930s and I guess this was one of the first.
03 October 2009
'I learnt Spanish many years ago. At one point I realized that I will never be able to speak Spanish well in my life because I found the tenses very difficult. But luckily, there are always beautiful Spanish songs in this world which we can sing, one of which is Magica luna.
Here is Moriyama Kayoko singing Magica luna in Japanese...
30 September 2009
This is probably going to be the most interesting HK album I hear this year. It isn't exactly by Rebecca Pan, but mainly tribute tracks from a bunch of local indie artists. When we met Rebecca two or three years ago, she didn't know about the indie acts singing in English. We also interviewed a few of the artists on the album and they didn't know about her. So it's nice to see them together because it creates a little bit of continuity in the music scene that wasn't there before. The hedgehog adventurer likes Ketchup's Solid Gold Rickshaw, Ga Yum Yan's, The Protest, and my little airport's I Wonder Why (actually, that is just P). I like the pancakes' Magica Luna, or at least it has got stuck in my head like a lot of her songs do.
The picture below is Rebecca signing the CD after her concert a week or so ago at the Sunbeam Theatre in North Point. PixelToy, Ketchup, Chet Lam, the pancakes, at17, p, and Eason Chan all appeared and Rebecca did a few numbers on her own. A lot of fun. So why is she signing on the stage? It seems the Sunbeam Theatre management wouldn't let her set up the table in the foyer, so as soon as she finished her encore, the curtains closed, up came the table and Rebecca sat down.
17 September 2009
Again from Carolyn Stevens' Japanese Popular Music, there is a story behind these covers of Summertime Blues and Love Me Tender. In 1988, RC Succession recorded an album called COVERS, which was intended for release by Toshiba-EMI on the anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bomb and included Japanese versions of American protest songs such as Blowing In The Wind and Eve Of Destruction. So why Summertime Blues and Love Me Tender? In their Japanese versions, both are transformed into protests against nuclear power plants. This didn't please Toshiba-EMI at all - Toshiba being involved in the construction of nuclear reactors - so the record was pulled just before it was due to come out. Released on Kitty Records instead, the album went straight to number one in the Oricon charts.
15 September 2009
14 September 2009
Another find from Carolyn Stevens' great book on Japanese Popular Music. Our research has Grace Chang's, I Want You To Be My Baby as the first Hong Kong song with English lyrics (the verses alternate between English and Chinese) somewhere towards the end of the fifties. Now I know that this goes back further in Japan. Carolyn Stevens mentions Eri Chiemi, Tennessee Waltz (1952) and Yukimura Izumi, Blue Canary (1954). This is Yukimura Izumi doing Alice In Wonderland in 1953 - a magical 'sandwich' with English on the outside and Japanese in the middle.
13 September 2009
I have just come across Carolyn Stevens' great book on Japanese Popular Music. The last chapter is on singing in English and translated English covers, a subject dear to our hearts, and so I have been tracking down some of the artists she mentions that I didn't know about. Let's start with Shiina Ringo and Tokyo Jihen, a band she formed in 2004. In a sea of songs with English titles that turn out to have Japanese, Cantonese, Korean, etc lyrics, Genjitsu wo Warau (meaning 'laugh at reality') is a bit of surprise - an English song with a Japanese title. The only one I know of, in fact. It was recorded on Tokyo Jihen's first album, Kyouiku (education) in 2004. We spent a frustrating hour looking for this album in Mongkok this afternoon and didn't find it.
06 September 2009
chopsticks sandra and amina, originally uploaded by HKpop.
We have been collecting English language records by Hong Kong artists for a few years and, if I remember rightly, it started out with a hunt for The Chopsticks. More on Sandra and Amina another time. This is just to celebrate finally getting all our vinyl record covers - around 120 of them - into a Flickr set. Special thanks to Sally for the scanning and Kaz for getting the files down to size.
04 September 2009
Apart from tracking down English recordings and performances by Asian singers, we are also tracking down Cantonese and Mandarin versions of English songs. This is not so easy because the Chinese title doesn't usually give you much clue, and if you don't know the original English song, what do you do? Here's an easy one, Law Yim Hing singing a version of Tonight from West Side Story in a 1964 Cantonese movie Riches in Splendour. Law Yim Hing was a well-known Cantonese opera singer and I'd say it shows here.
I doubt this song was recorded other than in the film and the movie setting has her singing live on radio, which was also popular back in the days when people who enjoyed Cantonese songs mostly wouldn't have the income to buy records.
This is posted on YouTube by HongKongInThe50s who has put up lots of 50s and 60s Cantonese movie clips. What a guy! I could watch all day.
03 September 2009
I have been downloading music from emusic for a few years now and even though I have gone from unlimited downloads for US$10 a month to around 50 cents a track, I still think its a good deal for the music you find there. Not much good for Asian music, but I have just come across this excellent album by the Beijing band Hedgehog as well as albums by Carsick Cars, Sober and Queen Sea Big Shark. Noise Hit World is mostly English and I wonder if the title is namechecking Apples in Stereo's Fun Trick Noisemaker album, which gets its name from a Chinese toy?
Here's a nice interview with Hedgehog's drummer, Atom, and Li Qing from Car Sick Cars.
01 September 2009
On a trip to Bangkok last week, we had a fun time searching for Tonchabab Vinyl Records on 10 Boonsiri Road. He has a great collection of second hand vinyl in his shop both western and thai. We picked up some nice Hong Kong stuff there, including a lovely Mandarin/Spanish album by Mona Fong & Los Mensjeros del Paraguay. And as you see, the owner is a really nice guy.
The reason we had a fun time searching is that a friend of the owner has put the location on google earth, but unfortunately in the wrong place. I've posted up this picture in the right place, and you can also find it on yahoo map if you follow the photo into flickr. It's kind of the middle of nowhere but not far from Khaosan Road.
13 August 2009
The hedgehog adventurer is spending a lot of time compiling a list of English songs recorded by mainstream Hong Kong artists for our research (now around 3,000). Most are covers, but quite a few are written. This is The One and Only written by Lam Sze Chung for Kay Tse and included on her Kay One album in 2005. Kay Tse is one of the four big female singers in Hong Kong right now, together with Joey Yung, Miriam Yeung and Denise Ho. She is also a good example of how it is becoming more and more important for East Asian singers to speak English. Kay is a graduate in American Studies from Hong Kong University and everybody knows that!
12 August 2009
My last post mentioned Faith Yang's Falling Slowly. This is Hocc (that's 'ho-see-see', aka Denise Ho) and Paisley Wu singing California Dreaming and Falling Slowly on TV. As the hedgehog adventurer points out, the Hocc and Paisley version is better if only because they noticed that it is a duet. Not recorded as far as I know. Nice comment from jocelyng87 - 'luv it...hocc english soo good....胡蓓蔚 kinda so-so lol'.
10 August 2009
This is not quite what it looks like. Perfect Day (Lou Reed) by Faith Yang ft. Eason Chan over a few minutes from the Japanese movie Taiyou no uta. Just to confuse things, the girl in video is not Faith, but J-pop star Yui who plays the lead in the movie. But I guess that's the kind of thing people do on YouTube.
This is from her Self-selected album of English covers released on Sony BMG in April, which definitely ups the ante for my-favourite-songs albums. Other tracks are Fake Plastic Trees (Radiohead), The Drugs Don't Work (The Verve), Halellujah (Leonard Cohen), 20th Century Boy (T-Rex), Diamonds Are Forever (Shirley Bassey), Falling Slowly (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova), Song 2 (Blur), The Scientist (Coldplay), After Hours (The Velvet Underground) and Miss Underwater, which is not a cover but a song written for her by Maximilian Hecker.
I think Lou Reed would like this version and he would like this badly recorded live version even more.
08 July 2009
05 July 2009
From Tai Hing Roast Restaurant, which has branches all over Hong Kong. This one was snapped and eaten on Tung Choi Street (aka Goldfish Street) north of Mongkok Road. The eight treasures are roast pork, BBQ pork, pig knuckle, red sausage, squid, soya chicken, roast goose and a salted egg.
20 June 2009
This fine red train came all the way from China to our favourite Mongkok toy shop, pictured below. Go right to the back of the shop and you'll find lots of replica tin toys just like this. The shop is on Bute Street near the corner of Sai Yee Street, or under the escalator that goes up to Mongkok East MTR. I guess it has a name, but you wouldn't be able to see it would you?
14 June 2009
This bag came free from Park'n'Shop on Saturday. Great bag. Coincidentally a taxi driver told us something about Chupa Chups only the day before. If you want to learn Cantonese, he said, put a Chupa Chups in your mouth and off you go. Why? Because it will stop you rolling your tongue.
I'd never seen a Chupa Chups before I came to Hong Kong, so I always thought they were a local thing. This is what I learned from Wikipedia. Chupa Chups come from Catalonia, 'chupa' means suck in Spanish, and that nice logo in the middle of the bag was designed by Salvador Dali.
31 May 2009
On the corner of Nga Tsin Wai Rd. and Lion Rock Rd. in Kowloon City, this building used to be the International Emporium 國際. The emporium was an old-fashioned department store. There is no telling why the word, emporium, was used. It signaled a type of fashion store which catered to everyone. And in the good old days, there used to be a number of 'emporiums', including one Indian Emporium in Tsim Sha Tsui. The building is now abandoned, leaving only the skeleton of a building.
Alice remembered visiting the International Emporium when she was very young. It was airy, with florscent lights above all display glass cabinets. The clothing items were not particularly exciting, but these were clothes were comfort clothes people wore at home. There were mannequims, but they were so stiff that their limbs were put at strange angles. There was no fancy decoration or anything. Even when Alice was young, she could tell International Emporium was 'old-fashioned'.
30 May 2009
This is next generation Cantopop god Eason Chan singing Aren't You Glad?, his first English song released last year. A while ago we did a survey of university students' music tastes and Eason came out way on top as favourite artist. Why does he sing with a perfect British accent? His dad was a senior civil servant (now in prison for accepting bribes), which meant that Eason got to go to a private school in England from age 12. Aren't You Glad? was written by Russell Harris, who is...? The MV was the winner of a competition in Malaysia.
19 May 2009
As I haven't been keeping up with UK pop very well over the last few years, it came as a surprise to me that Sham 69 still exist - let alone that they played in HK at Backstage on May 15. But as it turns out, this was not the 'real' Sham 69 - only one of the original band still there and it's not Jimmy Pursey. If I remember right, I saw Sham 69 open for The Clash at the Finsbury Park Astoria in 1978 where Jimmy made Joe Strummer look like the expat public school boy he was. I saw them several times that year and became something of a fan, then it all seemed to go bad. You couldn't get to the stage without risking being kicked around by a bunch of National Front skinheads. And then came Hurry Up Harry... Shame really when you listen to their first record. This is the B-side of I Don't Wanna with Ulster and Red London.
This is also something new on YouTube for me. You put your record on the turntable and video it while the record plays? Follow CesarAlcapone's stream and you'll see he is a master.
16 May 2009
Tizzy Bac, my favourite Taiwan band, actually my favourite band all round at the moment. Their first CD came out in 2002 and now they have 3 studio CDs and one live double CD. Tizzy Bac do a few songs in English, like Shall We Dance, off their new CD, but they are really the band for people who like a little English with their Mandarin. Above is a track from the latest CD with a long Mandarin title that means something like 'If I see hell, I won't be afraid of the devil' . Below is Sideshow Bob from the second CD. Unusual for this kind of song, the English comes in the first line and then disappears.
13 May 2009
11 May 2009
I have some time off work, so I am going to post for a few days on my true love in music, or at least my true research interest, which is Asian artists who perform in English. I am starting with an excellent Beijing band we saw on Saturday night, Car Sick Cars. Followers of Sonic Youth - the drummer is even called Thurston - they play as close to what I remember as punk as I've heard in a long time. They have also toured with Sonic Youth and have a few English songs in their bag, including a high-speed ear-shattering version of The Velvet Underground's Sunday Morning. Can't find anything in English on the Internet though, so here's Zhong Nan Hai (the name of Beijing's equivalent of the White House and the bass player's favourite brand of cigarettes).
03 May 2009
14 April 2009
Some people use carabinas to hang off rock faces. In Hong Kong we use them to hang stuff (mostly small stuffed animals) off our bags. These photos were taken in Ap Liu Street market, Sham Shui Po, with freakboy's brand new starburst Jelly Lens.
01 April 2009
Click the picture and read. This ad for a gweilo English teacher was standing at the bus stop on Bonham Rd outside Hong Kong University last week. So what exactly is a gweilo English teacher? If you know Hong Kong, Malaysia or Singapore you won't need me to tell you. For those who don't, a gweilo is a (male) white ghost (female: gweipoh) or a white foreigner - a fairly affectionate term mostly used by gweilo's themselves.
Hong Kong isn't going overboard for native-speaker English teachers quite as much Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan, but it is a selling point. With a gweilo you get a little bit extra - you know that your native speaker will also be foreign, white and male.
But how about 'practical secrets to communicating effectively and with passion'? What kind of bullshit is that?
28 January 2009
Finally we arrived at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre, which opened not long ago in Shek Kip Mei in a renovated nine-storey factory building and provides space for artists and craftspeople to create and display work. This is the interior courtyard and the hanging cloths - the kind that are used for canopies in markets and constructions sites - are part of an exhibition of installations on the theme of memory.
A poster from Shek Kip Mei post office. Here are the popular Hong Kong cartoon characters McDull and McMug encouraging us to keep our letters tidy if we want them to be delivered. Alice noticed the red rabbit and black pig stamps that were used in kindergartens to let kids know if their work was tidy or not. She wonders if they are still used now. She also tells me that the black pig has made its way into Cantonese - if you don't keep your room tidy, you might just 'get a black piggie'.
25 January 2009
These coin-operated rides are yet another attraction at the Colourful Dragon Restaurant. Oddly enough, we found more of these on exhibition in G.O.D. at the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre later in the afternoon. Here they are, newly painted, in full working order and ready to use.
The Colourful Dragon Restaurant in Tai Hang Tung public housing estate. I have passed this octagonal two-storey restaurant many times in the car, but have never had chance to go in before. Apart from the food, the attraction is the dance floor. Tea dance $68, nightclub $108.
Some pictures taken on a walk through Shek Kip Mei, from the back door of City University to the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre. This banner is on the side of a concrete footbridge and advertises all the things you can buy at Tai Hang Tung public housing estate market. Teddy bears and paper clips?
23 January 2009
Something from an old notebook that I found today brought back good memories. In summer 2007, Alice, Kaz (11 at the time) and myself went off to a great weekend at the Formoz Festival in a park and baseball stadium in downtown Taipei. In between, there were endless games of 'street basketball' - a game you can play everywhere in Taipei, but nowhere in Hong Kong - while Alice went off in search of hedgehogs. Yo La Tengo were already my favourite band and Kaz had got into the Teryaki Boyz after watching Tokyo Drift. Afterwards we started to listen to Mercury Rev and Alice fell in love with the Taiwanese band Echo (although strangely we missed their set).
I guess the list was some kind of collective literacy event because it shows traces of being written by all three of us. It was evidently unfinished...only nine?
- Eat Hot Star chicken at Shimin night market
- Go on a hedgehog hunt (Taipei is the hedghog capital of East Asia)
- Play 'street basketball everywhere you go [and we did - see photo]
- Shi ling bun (dumpling bun) at Dun Thai Fung (yummy)
- Go to the Eslite 24hr bookstore in the afternoon (never between 10 pm and 10 am)
- Record people entering MRT stations and appreciate the 'city beat' of Taipei
- Eating quails eggs in Danshui (and deep-fried durian, haha - [see profile photo]
- Go to the Formoz Festival and see Yo La Tengo (or Teriyaki Boyz if you prefer)
- Go to the 'retro' toy shop in Danshui and buy a catapult (or a paper doll if you are a girl)
18 January 2009
06 January 2009
This goes back to Christmas Day. At Christmas, what to Hong Kong people like to eat? Ice cream, of course, especially from the Mr Softee van that parks near the Star Ferry at Tsim Tsa Tsui. But not a hundred yards away outside the Cultural Centre we found another van undercutting Mr Softee by giving away free ice creams. This one was advertising Korean superstar Rain's new album Rainism. Rain has come a long way in Asia just singing in Korean, but according to the advertising on the side of the van, Rain sings in Korean, English and Mandarin on this album. He is also supposedly bringing out an English album this year, which should be interesting because so far all the big Asian stars who have brought out English albums in the last few years have been female.
03 January 2009
When we started researching Hong Kong English pop music in 2006, records like this were pretty hard to get hold of. This is Except You b/w No One Can Love You by Mod East released on Diamond some time around the mid-6os. They still are pretty hard to get hold of on vinyl, but now they are also starting to come out on CD (Universal have the back catalogue) and even as ringtones. Below is a list of tracks available as 'hello ringtones' (i.e. what someone hears when they call you) from 3. Most, if not all, came out on Diamond in the 60s. Of course, you need the right kind of 3 mobile account to download one, but if you have one, follow the link, and look in 'jazz/classic music' in the 'hello ring library'.
Hasta Manana 情莫變 - Amina
I Still Love You - Anders Nelson & The Inspiration
Love to Dance (Hala Hala) - D'Topnotes
Up Up & Away - Danny Diaz & The Checkmates
Deborah - Joe Jr. & Side Effects
Let's Go Off-Beat - Kong Ling
Lullaby of Birdland - Marilyn Palmer
Stranger to Love - Mod East
梭羅河 - Mona Fong
Shadow of Your Smile - Rowena
You've Lost That Loving Feeling - The Fabulous Echoes
I'll Be Waiting - The Lotus
1, 2, 3, Red Light - The Menace
Send Her Back The Mystics
Butterfly - Robert Lee 李振輝
十號風波 (Typhoon #10) - Teng Kee Chan / Lee Wai 鄧寄塵 / 李慧
01 January 2009
And before the shopping spree we had lunch at the 'Very Good Restaurant' on Soy Street. This is what is known as a cha chaan teng, a cheap restaurant that sells all kinds of Chinese and Western dishes and a few that have got mixed up along the way. Actually, there are a few 'Very Good Restaurants' around town, but this is a favourite because we like to go upstairs and be reminded of the 71/2th floor in Being John Malkowich. Below are a couple of Hong Kong pop food icons sharing a laugh with the chopsticks. On the left is a glass of iced lemon coffee and on the right a glass of yin yeung - tea mixed with coffee or maybe coffee mixed with tea.
I have been reading a couple of academic papers by DrJoolz where she mentions how digital cameras and Flickr are changing people's lives in a way that they carry cameras around with them everywhere and photograph everything they do. I was reminded that here in Hong Kong taking a photo of your lunch or dinner before you eat it has become quite the thing to do. And sure enough, just after we'd finished our photo session, the young couple next to us pulled out their cameras and started snapping their congee and noodles too.
After Sino Centre, CTMA Centre is my favourite Mongkok mall - especially the top floor and two basement floors which are jammed with small shops selling all kinds of wierd and wonderful toy figures. You'll find it on Sai Yeung Choi South St near the junction with Dundas Street. After a heavy-drinking New Year's Eve, we felt like doing absolutely nothing at all except to go on a meaningless shopping spree. Below is a group shot of some of the things we bought - a set of Evangelion figures, a wind-up hedgehog, a pig from Monster Hunter, and a fisheye 'jelly lens'. The jelly lens cost only HK$35 and I suppose that's why my photo of the mall didn't turn out so good.