Back in the 1990s, what was there to hear in Hong Kong? Céline Deon, definitely, and Cantopop. Nothing wrong with that, well, the Cantopop bit, but Hongkongers deserved more diversity. It took a while, but five years ago, three men with a dream to bring more live music and festival atmosphere to the Hong Kong masses thought up Clockenflap.
Strange name, but great idea. And it just took off. Clockenflap, now in its sixth year, is Hong Kong’s liveliest music and arts scene for one weekend a year and the founders are predicting a sell out to up to crowds of up to 30,000 people across three days of live music and arts. But it’s not only bringing pleasure to the ears of tens of thousands of people. The three men are hoping that by inspiring local artists, within two years Hong Kong will produce a headline act.
The combination of big international bands, up and coming regional artists and unsigned acts and a host of other disciplines has brought music from across the cultural divide into the mainstream.
The festival is the brainchild of Jay Forster, Mike Hill and Justin Sweeting who back in 2008 set about introducing a genre of music to the masses.
Over the years, it has supported the tunes of many local Chinese bands and artists branching introducing new styles of music to new audiences.
The festival platform seems to be driving new musical ideas.
“The difference between then and now is that more bands are playing across more genres than ever to a higher standard than ever,” Sweeting says, as his job gets harder as musical director in choosing from local acts.
But he adds with a caveat: “It’s still something that is a work in progress and in a developmental stage.”
“Coming from Hong Kong, growing up in Hong Kong, there was nothing ever happening,” he bemoans. “As a music geek, it was the most arid landscape to grow up in”, with no indie or alternative music.
But several years later, a meeting of the three musical minds of Clockenflap set a music and arts festival in motion.
From the very beginning in 2008, they knew there was a gap in the market for this kind of music.
“We instinctively knew there were enough people that were craving something like this – an outdoor music and arts event,” adds festival director Jay Forster.
Clockenflap has emerged as one of Hong Kong’s headlining events in the city’s calendar.
The team are now in full swing preparing to bring the performers and the people together once more for what’s set to be their biggest event yet. The three-event this year begins on November 29.
The trio founders, always under pressure to deliver the unexpected each year, thrive on the weight of expectation to inch forward Hong Kong’s burgeoning music scene.
“They enter Clockenflap and enter into this new experience they’ve not had anywhere else,” Forster explains. “They step out of their normal Hong Kong and enter into this new world of music and art that’s included.”
“If they forget where they are, they can look across the sea, and see the harbour.”
This year has grown into a seven-music stage festival even before the areas for film, the arts are combined.
With better local bands developing, Sweeting says Hong Kong is on the cusp of producing a headlining act: “I don’t think we’re too far off, maybe a couple of years away.”
“Ultimately one day when we get a local band to headline the festival, it will be a really, really proud day.”