Hong Kong and Guangzhou performers deliver musical message in blending of styles

Eight players hold a fusion concert that celebrates their common heritage in discordant times

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 8:52pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 March, 2017, 10:53pm

Hong Kong and Guangzhou musicians will celebrate their common musical source over political differences in an experimental fusion concert aimed at forging a new style of Cantonese music.

The “Guangdong Music Assembly”, four young local and four Guangzhou masters, will perform both new and traditional works on Chinese and Western instruments.

“In performing Cantonese music, I see no difference between Hong Kong and Guangzhou,” said Ricky Yeung Wai-kit, a local dizi player and organiser of the sell-out concert at Yau Ma Tei Theatre on Saturday.

“We share the same source, even the swear words are the same. Only in politics some people draw a line and get polarised.”

In recent years a number of political activists in Hong Kong have stressed the need to protect local autonomy and culture, leading to protests against the apparent rising interference of Beijing in the city’s affairs and the increasing number of mainland Chinese immigrants and tourists.

Yu Lefu, a master of Chinese instruments and a band leader in Guangzhou, saw nothing new in fusion music, but he said blending traditional instruments was a surprise move.

“We in Guangzhou perform with a rustic flavour, and the Hong Kong style is cosmopolitan,” said Yu, co-artistic adviser to the concert.

I was hesitant at first but got convinced after we jammed a few sessions together
Yu Lefu, instrumentalist

“It was Ricky’s idea to invite members of my band to perform Cantonese music in a new arrangement, I was hesitant at first but got convinced after we jammed a few sessions together.”

Of 14 works that will be performed at the concert, two, Solo in Cantonese Strings and Stepping Rain with a Light Heart, are Yu’s original compositions he will perform on the gaohu, a two-stringed Chinese instrument.

“I’ve also arranged the popular Full Moon Song for electric guitar, which I hope will be a new aural-visual experience for the audience,” he said.

The intricate balance between novelty and tradition posed a challenge to all eight participating musicians.

“Cantonese music by nature is lively and inclusive, often played instantaneously without music scores,” said Sha Jingshan, Yeung’s wife and a pipa player from Guangzhou.

“We purposely include two works for Chinese quintet performed in traditional style, and there are two vocal works which will please even the elderly audiences.”

Chan Pik-sum, a music graduate at Chinese University, was excited about singing Cantonese operatic aria in a popular music style accompanied by mixed instruments.

“We hope to showcase the exquisite ear-pleasing quality of Cantonese music by delivering it through plain singing and not operatic style,” Chan, an erhu player, said of the ancient melody Meditations in the Boudoir, the most famous aria in the Cantonese opera Princess Chang Ping.

“What we try to showcase is not just about a new form of Cantonese music, but how far Hong Kong can give a new life to an old tradition through a platform that is open to East and West.”