Passion for music

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 October, 2007, 12:00am

Apart from playing with a grunge rock band, teacher Kenny Chan has produced an English solo album

A secondary school teacher was inspired by his students to release an album of English acoustic songs which are testimony to the passion for music his father passed on to him.

Kenny Chan Ka-lok, who teaches English at Po Leung Kuk Yao Ling Sun College in Tsuen Wan, has a serious image in the classroom during the day.

But after school, he joins his band mates of independent grunge outfit Bodytoning and becomes a 'wild and crazy' rocker. He is the drummer of the band.

'Music unleashes the other side of my character,' says Chan, who is a fan of late grunge icon Kurt Cobain. 'Usually I'm quiet and reserved. But when I listen to music I get very excited. Some students who have gone to my gigs said I was a different person on stage.'

Chan, 42, has been interested in music since childhood when his father played tunes like I Love You Baby by Canadian singer-songwriter Paul Anka for him.

The song opened the door to the exciting world of rock 'n' roll for Chan.

Since then, he says, each stage of his life has been characterised by the music of the times, from the Beatles in the 70s to Japan and Duran Duran in the 80s.

One of the bands that made the largest impact on him was Nirvana in the 90s. The Seattle-based grunge rockers still have an influence on alternative rock bands.

'No one can emulate the anger in Kurt's vocals. Their alternative stage performances and guitar sound captured my attention. I was mesmerised by their music,' says Chan.

He and two friends were so inspired by Cobain that they formed Bodytoning.

The band won a bronze award at the Carlsberg Music Festival in 1995.

At the end of 2006, Chan decided to work on a solo project.

Using a guitar borrowed from his sister-in-law, he penned 12 English songs in three months and recorded them in a single evening session in a studio with a Japanese producer and record engineer.

'Many of Bodytoning's songs express the frustrations of living in society today and convey a sense of hopelessness. But my songs are about love,' says Chan.

The first three numbers on his newly-released debut album, Do It Naturally and Simply, are love ballads dedicated to his wife, who helped design the album cover.

Why explores parent-child relationships while the final song on the album, 7S Anthem, is a heartfelt tribute to his students who have graduated.

In addition to realising a personal dream, Chan says he hoped to achieve two goals with the album.

'When I was a child I didn't like to read. I guess 90 per cent of my English oral and writing skills came from listening to English songs by the Beatles, Bee Gees and Simon and Garfunkel. They didn't use difficult vocabulary but their lyrics were very poetic, which made me want to imitate their writing style.

'I hope students can learn English by listening to my songs.'

His second goal was to introduce different musical genres to students. The teacher-turned-rocker performs live gigs with students at his school's English corner during lunchtime at the end of each month. It's an attempt to inspire students - whose creativity and musical tastes have been, he says, corrupted by karaoke or Canto-pop influences - to pick up a guitar and play music.

'It's discouraging that fewer students today play an instrument. If you don't play an instrument, you will never fully appreciate music.'

Visit to listen to Chan's songs