What’s holding it back? The water? Lousy dim sum? Outta whack egos drowning in cobwebs of mediocrity? Hell, there are those who describe Rihanna as a “Jazz” singer, which is like saying James Blunt is a “soul singer”. Whatever it is, nothing much is happening here in the way of actual original music whereas whatever creative spark there might have been in Hong Kong- and it’s hard to remember when that was- has not only blown out, it’s really hard to think if there ever was one.
The sky is grey and so is my mind. It’s been grey for a while. Nothing is black and white. It’s being stuck in the Now and the Now is not what it was. Another birthday beckons and I wonder if I’ll see it through. Or want to see it through. My father wanted to live to be a hundred. He fell short by six years.
The television is on another of those news channels. It’s more pundits talking all over each other about the future of America under Donald Trump. It’s as repetitive and boring as nearly everything and everyone around me. I look out at the grey staring at me through the window and wonder what it’s trying to say. It’s probably saying nothing like many of those around me. We’re living in a grey world.
The Kinks asked, Where Have All The Good Times Gone. But that was in the Sixties, and that was a time overflowing with good times- a sudden massive wave of creativity led by music and where everything seemed possible. And we made the impossible possible and saluted individual thinking. We sang about it. We wrote about it and not in 140 words or less. We made movies about it. We embraced change.
Be selective. Be very selective. That’s one thing that’s becoming more and more clear every day. These days I don’t know anyone who’s not on some form of social media. This is probably where one has to be the most selective what with all its links, and tags and likes and comments, childish politics, paranoia, and, of course, emojis.
The world today almost speaks in forked tongue emojis. Whereas Twitter has reduced the art of conversation to 140 words or less, emojis have taken over even thinking about being a wordsmith. What for, when one is not being selective in who we choose to communicate? Just give a thumbs up emoji for the sake of “social media etiquette” and move on.
It’s all become so formulaic, but how does one politely tell someone who believes they have written something original that it’s derivative?
My singer friend Jennifer remarked the other day that she didn’t know whether it was just her, or was “Pop” music all sounding the same- meaning almost a nursery rhyme lyrics and melody line repeated over a backing of synth bass, drums and percussion.
Of course, it is because success or a hit creates the sausage factory syndrome of manufacturing recordings “like” this and “like” that. And right now, there’s an awful amount- and most is truly awful- of recordings that simply regurgitate what Justin Bieber recently recorded. Bieber’s recordings are wonderful pop music. But they belong to Justin Bieber. We don’t need more of the same. But that’s what happens when followers become sheep and lemmings.
We have to first switch it all off, take a deep breath, exhale and switch it back on. Switch off that television. Switch off those 24 hour news channels with their non-stop avalanche of politics and lies and deceptions and “world leaders” playing roles.
Switch off everything and everyone that has become a distraction to you moving from here to there for the sole purpose of progressing and evolving and building your own portfolio. There’s nothing wrong with being selfish. There’s everything wrong in being weighed down with unnecessary baggage.
Have we become so numb and so dumbed down that we can no longer see who’s genuine and who’s the plastic fantastic? Who are these people many listen to and believe that everything they’re saying is the truth? Anderson Cooper, Megyn Kelly, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Wolf Blitzer, Bill O’Reilly…Who ARE these people with a television programme as their pulpit and from where they spew forth their self-serving, sanctimonious agendas?
Either something is very wrong, or everything is completely wrong, and with inspiration in such short supply. And without inspiration, how can one create? There’s just so much of everything that finding that something- and someone- special today becomes almost an impossibility. It wasn’t always like this.
Where did we make that U-turn down to Rue Morgue Avenue and cosy up and settle for mediocrity- mediocre music, mediocre people, and we tolerate and accept mediocre everything. It makes me wanna cut off my ear, and yell, Can you fucking hear me?
It takes a lot to laugh, and a train to cry, and, sometimes, it takes someone or everyone to plant a seed for inspiration to grow. These days, inspiration is in short supply around the world where brother no longer trusts brother, and the world’s power brokers are trying to convert this choreographed hatred into even more divisiveness. But that’s another subject for another day…
In Hong Kong, a small city currently engulfed in rookie politics, where nobody’s right when everybody’s wrong, there’s a fledgling music scene trying to find its feet and get off the ground.
It’s been fledgling for around four decades, because of those who once controlled the local music industry. They saw the money to be made from what this writer coined Canto Pop when writing for the trade publication known as Billboard. This was when singer/songwriter Sam Hui, below, fused his vast knowledge of Western pop music from the British Beat Boom era, and the various chord progressions of the hits from this time with colloquial Cantonese lyrics that spoke to local Chinese through a genre of music they had never heard before. It was tremendously commercial music that’s stood the test of time.
Again, you need to go back to where you came from to gather your bearings and remember what you either might have forgotten or never appreciated at the time.
Listening to the back catalogue of Mr Chuck Berry, I only now truly understand what a “backbeat and you can’t lose it” really means. Mr Berry might have sounded like playing simple three bar blues or boogie woogie at the time. But his guitar playing always had that backbeat- a non-stop rhythm guitar going on which effortlessly blended in with his leads and gave his vocals probably some of the beginnings of what was slowed down and became funk or soul or whatever black music was labeled.
Last week, my favourite ‘live’ band in Hong Kong ran through an extremely funk-driven version of the Sam and Dave hit “Hold On I’m Coming”.
The saying that “It’s all about the song” really rang true. The song pushed everyone in band, especially the two singers. Play great songs, and their power goes through you. What was surprising was to discover that one of the singers had never heard of Sam and Dave or any of their other recordings. I sent him a video of the duo performing “Soul Man”, and quite rightly, he was blown away.