And one wonders why the ‘live’ music scene in Hong Kong is no longer on life support, but dead, dead, dead with not even that one-time supporter of bringing quality Adult Contemporary/Jazz/Jizz to her Sevva establishment- Bonnie Gokson- probably singing that Peggy Lee classic, “Is That All There Is?”
Is all there is in Hong Kong being yet another Amy Winehouse “tribute show”, this time, an “acoustic” one, again led by the late singer’s former guitarist Robin Banerjee, and the third in the series in a city, where Duffy, who played Hong Kong in one timely opportunist swoop during those Winehouse years, sold more records than the original artist she copied?
As friends who have been to one of these previous “tribute” shows commented, “But we only knew three of the songs. It was boring and a bit ghoulish.” Maybe.
Robin Banerjee has now moved to Hong Kong because, as we all know, there is bugger all happening in London other than playing for almost free and waiting for the devil in X Factor to call. One has to wonder, however, if the guitarist is not a one-trick pony flogging his one-time association with a dead artist to, well, death?
One doubts it, though it’s surely time to move on?
Robin Banerjee is a more than capable guitarist who, at this stage in his life and career, should be showing us his own musical personality, and USP, but seems reluctant to do so. Pity.
Fear of change, fear to move away from comfort and safety zones and “holding back the years” is what keeps the local ‘live’ music scene sounding dated, looking stunted, and suffering from shrinkage.
Who or what’s to blame? Venues that take in way too many strays just because they’re from “overseas” instead of having a strict A&R code where very few get past that velvet rope and occupy centre stage? Every big black dude wearing a baseball cap back to front isn’t a rapper. He could be the postman who always rings twice, or just another big black dude wearing a baseball cap back-to-front. Hong Kong has always been so impressionable, such SUCH groupies.
Or does it have to do with musicians, past their Use By Dates, happy to glide on auto pilot, playing by numbers and content to make ends meet with no hesitation to mooch off others and play the performing seal for chump change?
Hong Kong has a handful of good musicians. Very good. But unless they “unlearn” the past, embrace all the music around them that continues to pass them by- the old and the new-realise that being a big fish in a small pond only makes one a lonely salmon swimming upstream without a paddle, come to grips with the fact that a great copyist is no substitute for an original, and to be inspired by everything THIS unique city offers up without trying to turn its ‘live’ music scene into a dated version of London, LA or NYC, the better the music will be and more honest will be the players.
Right now, there’s too much shuck and jive and drunken back-slapping that’s not moving anyone nor their music forward.
Of course, survival and financial survival come into play, but just as there is something very wrong with giving one’s content for free on social media sites like Facebook and YouTube, there is also something intrinsically incorrect in showing up at every gig, lowering fees, and, in the process, devaluing one’s art.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder and, often, the starter makes people long for the main course.
As in sex, keep something in reserve and don’t blow your load at once and wilt in the process. Be a little selective and exclusive.
Today, one can walk into Orange Peel, Backstage, Peel Fresco, Gekko and any hotel lounge and find the usual suspects going through the same musical motions with a few faces joining in.
Does any of this advance the quality or relevance of the music? Does this give Hong Kong something approaching new, contemporary music?
The Canto-pop music world has already dragged music down with the inflated egos and posturing of ageing fat cat “idols” with their tedious concerts comprising the same ponderous ballad sung in different keys.
The ‘live’ music scene with its much poorer cousins have a huge opportunity to move things up a notch by creating a uniquely original sound by thinking beyond the usual venues with their almost regimented approach to music.
Coming up soon will be the revitalised Central Police Station project in Old Bailey Street, which is said to be a local version of Covent Garden with new opportunities for musicians.
Meanwhile, Adrenaline at the Happy Valley Racecourse is, without a doubt, the best gig in town, where the resident musicians are paid- on time and extremely well- for playing 2-3 songs between the eight races held, and to a rapidly-growing audience of those looking for something different when it comes to music- and atmosphere.
With more venues coming on-stream at the racecourse in Happy Valley and that in Shatin, Adrenaline is a fascinating chameleon that’s changing all the time and with the HKJC- the Hong Kong Jockey Club which is also managing the Central Police Station project- demanding change, supporting it, listening to customer wants and needs and- this is key- creating new delivery platforms for the artists and musicians it presently brings together every Wednesday from 7pm to 11pm at its Happy Wednesday meetings that easily attract over 12,000 new generation race goers to the track.
Ironic that a racing club is doing more for ‘live’ music in Hong Kong than many other venues supposed to be breeding grounds for originality and spontaneity?
The heart of music has always had a sense of irony mixed with heart and soul and self-expression.
It will be interesting to see where this Adrenaline rush leads, and the new life support system it just might offer to Hong Kong musicians willing to embrace Change.
Chairman and CEO
We-Enhance Inc and Fast Track Global Ltd