Territory on the south-east coast of China. It was a British crown colony from 1842 to 1997, when it reverted to Chinese control. The present special Adminstrative Region comprises Hong Kong Island, Kowloon peninsula and the New Territories on the mainland, and adjacent islands.
1. Art music.
In the 19th century Hong Kong was a sparsely populated trading outpost, and the Western and Chinese populations were largely segregated. Cantonese Opera had been presented in the countryside from as far back as 1786 (Tanaka, 672). Performances coincided with seasonal and ghost festivals, purification and initiation rites, and deities' birthdays. Narrative singing and ritual music reflected tastes in neighbouring Guangdong province. For Westerners, a City Hall opera house (1869) fostered amateur music-making. In 1912 music was written for the opening of Hong Kong University, and in 1916 the Tsang Fook firm, which is still operating, built its first pianos. The 1920s saw Gilbert and Sullivan performances, visits by Italian opera troupes and occasional recitals by artists such as Segovia for predominantly Western audiences. Band concerts at Hong Kong University proved popular in the 1930s. The first radio station was established in 1928, and live broadcasts of Western classical music began the following year. From 1937 Chinese music too was played.
During World War II the Japanese army melted down organ pipes for military use, and many musical enthusiasts found themselves in prison, where they conceived plans for a postwar symphony orchestra of Western and Chinese members. This materialized in the summer of 1947 as the Sino-British Orchestra, conducted by a medical doctor, Solomon Bard. Amateur and initially lacking key players, it blossomed in the 1950s and 60s under Arrigo Foá and Lim Kek-Tjiang. Renowned artists began to appear as soloists in 1953, and four years later it was renamed the Hong Kong PO. The opening of a new City Hall in 1962 at last provided an adequate venue for concerts and opera (concerts had previously been given in schools and the Loke Yew Hall of Hong Kong University), and its design was copied for three halls in the New Territories. Control of most concert venues and programming devolved to the Urban Council and (from 1986) Regional Council, representing an unusual amount of government administration, given Hong Kong's capitalist ethic. The opening in 1989 of a new Cultural Centre in Kowloon provided yet another concert hall and a fully equipped opera house.
In the 1960s Chiuchow (Chaozhou) and Hoklo opera flourished, while the regional Cantonese opera, which began to move into concert halls, experienced declining audiences. After the fall of the Gang of Four (1977), Chinese musicians started visiting to relearn operas preserved in Hong Kong but suppressed on the mainland during the Cultural Revolution. Their Western-influenced conservatory style created controversy in Hong Kong, which had kept to a subtler, improvisatory performing tradition. Instrumental music, an offshoot of opera, now became increasingly popular; zheng, pipa, erhu and dizi were the favourite solo instruments.
An economic boom beginning in the 1970s vitalized cultural life. In 1973 the first annual International Arts Festival was held; the Hong Kong PO turned professional in 1974 and the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra three years later, both under the wing of the Urban Council.
The Hong Kong Children's Choir (later Yip's Children's Choir), founded in 1969 by Yip Wai-hong, has repeatedly toured overseas. Adult choirs include the Oratorio Society (1956), the Cecilian Singers (1963) and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Chorus (1984). From the late 1970s onwards the Hong Kong PO, under Mommer, Maxim Shostakovich, Schermerhorn and Atherton, gradually gained international recognition. The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, directed by Ng Tai-kong, Kuan Nai-chung, Henry Shek and Yan Hui chang has commissioned much new repertory.
Composition dates from the 1940s, with works by Harry Ore, a Rimsky-Korsakov pupil. Lin Sheng-shih was a co-founder, in 1971, of the Asian Composers' League. The Hong Kong Composers' Guild was established in 1983, the Hong Kong ISCM chapter in 1984. In 1975 Doming Lam gained the first Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) commission for a new work; he remained a strong creative presence for two decades. Works by younger composers, including Law Wing-fai, Richard Tsang Yip-fat, Chan Wing-wah and Lam Bun-ching, have increasingly been played overseas, at the UNESCO Rostrum in Paris and elsewhere. In the absence of a conservatory, musical instruction after World War II relied on small private institutes, church organizations and individual teachers. The degree programme of the Chinese University of Hong Kong began in 1965, followed by Hong Kong Baptist University (1973) and Hong Kong University (1982). These institutions offer a wide range of undergraduate and graduate studies, both Western and Asian. A full-scale conservatory opened in 1984 as part of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. The local self-awareness of the late 1980s and 90s was reflected in a revival of Cantonese opera and narrative genres, such as nanyin.
GEWM, vii (‘The Local, the National, and the Transnational in the Musical Life of Hong Kong’, J. Witzleben)
I. Tanaka: Ritual Theatres in China (Tokyo, 1981)
N. Ng: The Early Population of Hong Kong: Growth, Distribution and Structural Change, 1841–1931 (Manila, 1983)
C. Hydes and others: Hong Kong Philharmonic Society: Celebration (Hong Kong, 1984)
P. Hsiu: Sixty Years of Broadcasting in Hong Kong (Hong Kong, 1988)
D. Law: ‘Hong Kong’, New Music in the Orient, ed. H. Ryker (Buren, 1991), 225–48
C. Hydes and others: Hong Kong Philharmonic Society: Elevation (Hong Kong, 1994)
S.Y. Chan: ‘Exploding the Belly: Improvisation in Cantonese Opera’, In the Course of Performance: Studies in the World of Musical Improvisation, ed. B. Nettl and M. Russell (Chicago, 1998),199–218
2. Popular music.
Popular music audiences in Hong Kong from the 1950s and 70s were divided along the lines of class, language ability and age. Composers who emigrated from China in 1949 continued the popular music tradition of pre-revolution Shanghai and produced shidaiqu (‘contemporary songs’, with lyrics in Mandarin), catering to the masses not only in Hong Kong but also in Taiwan. However, Hong Kong's urban youths enjoyed the same exposure to Anglo-American popular music as their Western counterparts from the late 1950s. The Beatles performed in Hong Kong in 1964. During the 1960s and 70s local bands performed British and American rock music and composed songs in English.
By the 1970s local television stations broadcast original songs with Cantonese lyrics (title songs of prime-time programmes), which boosted the careers of composer Joseph Koo and lyricist James Wong. Hong Kong's indigenous popular music industry became a major commercial enterprise by the early 1980s with Cantopop (Cantonese popular music).
The term Cantopop was coined by Billboard writer Hans Ebert, who originally used the term Cantorock in 1974. One of the first bands that became successful was Lotus, with lead singer and songwriter Sam Hui (Xu Guanjie). Hui's output gradually became more ‘pop’ than ‘rock’, prompting Ebert to revise his terminology. Hui remained one of the few Cantopop stars who wrote and performed his own compositions. Another prominent band was the Wynners, whose lead singers Alan Tam (Tan Yonglin) and Kenny Bee (Zhong Zhentao) established long, successful solo careers into the 1990s.
Cantopop derives primarily from Japanese and American popular music of the 1970s, and much of its music was borrowed (cover versions of Japanese and American tunes with Cantonese lyrics). As consumer products, Cantopop records are promoted on radio and television. Major international record companies (Polygram, EMI, BMG, Philips, WEA) produced Cantopop, constantly discovering new talent and marketing singers as teenage idols. Stars performed in sports stadiums with seating capacities of 10,000 and extended their performing activities into acting on television and in films, further enhancing their popularity.
By the 1980s Cantopop became a stylized, formulaic genre, characterized by verses and refrains, synthesizer arrangements and soft-rock rhythms. Occasionally, traditional instruments such as the erhu, zheng or pipa would be featured in interludes to give some Chinese flavour. Lyrics are almost exclusively amorous. During the Beijing student movement of 1989, Cantopop stars participated in fund-raising efforts and performed and recorded an all-star All for Freedom in the style of We are the World. Another Cantopop trend in the early 1990s explored the emotions and tensions of emigration and political change of 1997. In 1993–4 Cantonese rap performed by the duo Softhard was immensely popular.
During the early 1990s Cantopop established strongholds in Taiwan and the People's Republic of China, dominating musical tastes. Secondary products such as music videos and karaoke versions of Cantopop generated even more income for artists, their managers and record companies.
See also Cantopop, China, §IV, 6(ii) and Taiwan, §V.
and other resources
Huang Zhihua: Yueyu liuxingqu sishinian [Forty years of Cantonese popular songs] (Hong Kong, 1990)
J.C. Lee: ‘All for Freedom: the Rise of Patriotic/Pro-Democratic Popular Music in Hong Kong in Response to the Chinese Student Movement’, Rockin' the Boat: Mass Music and Mass Movements, ed. R. Garofalo (Boston, 1992), 129–47
J.C. Lee: ‘Cantopop Songs on Emigration from Hong Kong’, YTM, xxiv (1992), 14–23
Mi huo [Confused], perf. A. Tam, Polygram 834 298–2 (1988)
Xianggang qinghuai [Love of Hong Kong], perf. S. Hui, Polygram 841 949–4 (1990)
Guangbodao ranying sharen shijian/Broadcast Drive Murder, perf. Softhard, Cinepoly CP-5-0075 (1993)
Zhende ai ni [Truly love you], ii and iii, various pfmrs, Polygram 519 565–2, 521 506–2 (1993)
ANA RYKER, HARRISON RYKER (1), JOANNA C. LEE (2)