If wishes were fishes and one of them was to bring back a deceased favourite entertainer, who should take to the stage? That thought has been on my mind since the appearance of the late rapper Tupac Shakur at California's Coachella music festival two weeks ago. A transparent screen, mirrors and digital wizardry made the dead of 15 years come alive in the midst of a show by hip-hop icons Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg, the apparition so real that the audience went into an excited frenzy. Alas for fans, it was just magic, ending as suddenly as it began with an explosion of light, but the technology has caused such a stir that the entertainment industry is abuzz with talk of a virtual return of other long-gone legends.
Names like John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix are predictably being put around. But the technology is far from perfect and it is expensive. Although the image produced is being called a 3D hologram, it is actually as flat as a photograph and appears as three-dimensional only from the front. With Shakur's two-song appearance costing up to US$400,000 to create and taking four months of video and audio splicing to put together, significant advancements will have to be made before a full concert at an affordable ticket price is possible.
Still, we can dream and my dreams of late have been on Cantonese popular music (apologies to Lady Gaga; failing to get a ticket for her shows starting tomorrow can do such things). For those who do not see me as a connoisseur of overproduced love songs, rest assured it is not that sort of Canto-pop that I enjoy. Stars Joey Yung Cho-yee and Eason Chan Yik-shun have their legions of fans, but it is not for me. Besides, it is the dearly departed of Hong Kong's musical scene that I have been giving thought to.
Supreme talent and an early death are assurances of legend status; Shakur was just 25 when he was shot dead in Las Vegas in 1996. Hip-hop is not my music of listening choice, so don't expect to see me scrambling for a ticket to see him or any of the many others of the genre who had an untimely demise.
I would certainly be intrigued about a return of a virtual Lennon for a reunion with Paul Mccartney for a sort of Beatles get-together, though, while Mercury, with or without his band Queen, would be a treat for the ears and eyes. But, first, I would want to be in the midst of a Hong Kong crowd experiencing the virtual comeback of a local hero.
Hong Kong has a shockingly large number of gifted entertainers taken from us at too young an age, so which one to invest time and money in to bring back is a matter of great debate. Wong Ka-kui of the rock band Beyond comes quickly to mind, as do singers Danny Chan Pak-keung and Leslie Cheung Kowk-wing. I could even imagine a show featuring Bruce Lee, presenting all the moves that made him a kung fu legend. But there are two entertainers who epitomise our culture, creativity and excellence more than any others: Anita Mui Yim-fong, who died in 2003 at 40, and Roman Tam, who was 52 when he passed away the previous year.
Mui and Tam had remarkable stage presences. Their voices were distinctive and their concerts were an entertainment feast. I can't decide which to choose. Let the debate begin.
Peter Kammerer is a senior writer at the Post