Young Hong Kong buskers share a name, but follow different musical paths
Buskers Kit and Carol may share the same Chinese name - Cheung Kit-ying - but they are pursuing their musical talents along different paths.
While Carol is pursuing music therapy after returning from Britain, Kit has shot to fame on the mainland after competing on China's Got Talent.
She won thousands of hearts preforming Adele's signature Rolling in the Deep last month. She now ranks 33rd out of the 76 shortlisted competitors. Only 10 contestants will be selected for the final in a couple of weeks.
Despite being praised by mainlanders as the "Hong Kong Adele", Kit said she had been cold-shouldered by a local producer because he said she was chubby.
"The producer said singers in Hong Kong had to be slimmer and prettier as it would make it easier in marketing," Kit, 22, said.
But she is determined not to be put down.
"If you find me ugly, please close your eyes - then open them again and see if I look a bit better if you enjoy my music," Kit said.
But she prefers the street, as opposed to auditoriums.
"Pedestrians stop to listen because of your voice, even if you are fat or ugly. But of course pretty girls always attract a larger crowd," Kit laughs.
It was the summer of 2012 when Kit and Carol - who is four years older - first met when busking. Since then they have sauntered down many roads with their musical instruments, amplifiers and jazzy melodies.
"One day when we were singing in Causeway Bay, someone threw mushrooms out of a window," Kit said. "He said we wouldn't have to play in the street if our music was any good. We hear that all the time."
But some people do appreciate them.
"A single mother once brought her kids to say thank you to me because she couldn't afford to take her kids - who are music lovers - to any concerts," Kit recalled. "She brings them to listen to me every Saturday instead.
"We wouldn't say we have made a great contribution to Hong Kong, but at least we offer free entertainment."
A lot of people also wonder why Carol goes busking when she has a masters degree in music therapy.
"One of my dad's friends once asked him why I was doing it when I had the degree," she said. "But I doubt he would be able to explain it."
The pair perform across the city most weekends - not only at favourite expat haunts in Central and Wan Chai, but also in the suburbs, including Tai Po and Sha Tin, and old areas like Sham Shui Po and Ngau Tau Kok.
They collect an average of HK$200 an hour, but once they counted just HK$20 after a seven-hour stint.
"It is definitely not a job that allows you to pay your rent," Kit said. "You couldn't even afford food if it was your full-time job."
While Kit is considering a different musical path after the success of the talent show, Carol is getting ready to open her own music therapy centre by the end of this month.
She hopes to use music to help patients, including those suffering from depression and schizophrenia, as well as autistic children.
"Music therapy is yet to be fully developed in Hong Kong," Carol said. "Many foreign-trained therapists, including me, hope it will be recognised as a profession some day."