Playing Thursday - Don't worry, be happy, is Hong Kong busker's upbeat message
Guitar player known as Kimman is latest to step up for mini-live performance on stage in Taikoo Place, Quarry Bay.
If music can heal, then Wong Kim-man, also known as Kimman, is living proof of that. The 32-year-old singer-songwriter says he plunged to the lowest point in his life when, in 2009, his debt-ridden mother committed suicide. Struck with grief, Wong left town with a guitar and went on a "working holiday", busking first in Australia before hitting the streets of Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan.
He wanted to write a song in Taiwan dedicated to his mother; the result was Flying to Infinity, which went on to become a small online hit.
"Writing this song and playing the music is therapeutic… the feeling and lyrics were written in the rain when I was having a meal in Taiwan, it was pathetic," he says.
But Wong is optimistic by nature and enjoys sharing his music with people, "empowering others" through happiness and relaxation. That is why he took up busking five years ago and why he will be performing with other independent musicians in an ongoing free lunchtime concert series at Via Fiori in Taikoo Place.
Curated by Bitetone, these mini live concerts take place every Thursday (between 1pm and 1.45pm) until the end of November and it's Wong's turn to take to the stage this week. Performers lined up for upcoming concerts include singer Shandy Gan (bossa nova), singer-songwriters Michael Lai and Kevin Kaho Tsui (pop) as well as Nowhere Boys and Tang Siu-hau (soft rock).
Wong's story is interesting in that within a few years, the singer went from busking on streets to appearing in televised singing competitions including Super Idol and Chinese Million Star in Taiwan and on Hong Kong's The Voice; he auditioned for The Voice of China earlier this year. He was also invited to audition for X Factor, a British singing competition, which he declined, opting for The Voice of China opportunity instead.
The singer - who quit school at 15 and has worked in restaurants and logistics - says he had never imagined going in front of the camera but after he got the attention of the mainstream media in Taiwan, he went with the flow.
"Music is a gift, there is no need to win, you just try your best," says Wong, who started playing the guitar (he was self-taught) when he began going to church at 16.
For Thursday's concert, he will perform with a cajon player to create a new sound: "It is a kind of music that touches the heart and brings comfort and peace. Playing music is also about nurturing the faith to believe in yourself, not caring too much what others think about you."
Wong also plans to raise enough funds to work on an EP next year. Instead of seeing the world with melancholy, he chooses to see it as a place with great things to experience and share. He encourages young people not to worry too much about the future but says it is important to set a goal and keep working towards it.
"When you step into the world and witness many stories on the street, you realise there are things which don't matter and they become easier to let go," says Wong.
Kimman performs at Via Fiori landscaped garden outside One Island East, Taikoo Place on Thursday, October 29 from 1-1.45pm.