The sheer dominance of Canto-pop in Hong Kong during the past 30 years makes it easy to forget it has roots in western pop of the 1960s, when groups such as the Wynners presented repertoires heavily influenced by the Beatles and others. But English-language music seems to be enjoying a comeback in the city, with young singers and bands dipping into western songbooks. TVB's introduction of a foreign-language segment on Jade Solid Gold, the premier music programme on the broadcaster's Chinese channel, reflects the trend. The senior manager of TVB's variety and musical department, Philip Chan Ka-yeung, attributes it partly to performers' hopes of broadening their appeal. 'In the past singers were mostly concerned about local audiences. But with the internet and other new media available, they realise the market outside is really big, and they don't have to sing in Cantonese to express themselves,' he says. '[The new Canto-pop singers] have foreign music idols and, given the chance, they are keen to try [performing in other languages].' Eason Chan Yik-shun, for instance, included an English number entitled Aren't You Glad on his Putonghua album released last month. Jason Chan Pak-yu also recorded a locally composed English track, Moonlight Express, on his newly released Cantonese album. Such choices are natural for many of the younger performers educated abroad or raised in a western setting, says singer-songwriter Khalil Fong Dai-tung. Jason Chan moved to Canada with his family at the age of seven and returned to Hong Kong in 2005 to pursue a music career. And Hawaii-born Fong, who plans to include an English-language track on his next release, writes and performs most of his demos in English before translating the lyrics into Chinese. Popular culture is becoming a melting pot thanks to the internet, says Fong, citing animated feature Kung Fu Panda, which blends Chinese martial arts with Hollywood slapstick, as an example. And just as Taiwanese singer Joanna Wang has an English album, Avril Lavigne has a single which she performs in different languages, including Putonghua. 'The internet has connected us,' says Fong. 'I think this is the beginning of a new global trend.' It has clearly benefited the local band scene, which has become bigger and more international, says Phil Benson, a professor at the Hong Kong Institute of Education who is studying English-language pop in Hong Kong. He estimates there are now about 200 bands performing in English. 'Most are not professional, but there is enough happening to support them. So it's quite a healthy scene,' says Benson. Some groups, such as Audiotraffic, are getting considerable exposure on local radio and TV, although Canto-pop continues to prevail. 'English is more of a universal language, especially for music,' says Audiotraffic guitarist Don Cruz. Happy?, a single from Audiotraffic's eponymous album, reached No2 on Commercial Radio 903's international chart in May. Winners of the Hong Kong section of the World Battle of the Bands contest in 2004, Audiotraffic were also invited to perform on Jade Solid Gold. The growing number of international bands playing in the city in recent years also helped boost the appeal of English-language music among young Hongkongers, says Cruz. 'It seems to me there are now more local people listening to international music rather than just Canto-pop. They are broadening their horizons in music.' Thanks to the popularity of blogs, and exposure on YouTube and MySpace, local musicians don't even have to sign with a label to market their music overseas. 'The internet helps us a lot. It's free of charge and you can work things out as long as you have the passion,' says Innisfallen guitarist Sam Tsang Kai-sum. The Britpop-influenced group have even sold copies of their debut album, REALlusion, to listeners in Europe through their website. 'Many indie bands in Asian countries such as Malaysia, Thailand and Japan perform in English. I think there's a niche market [for English-language music by Asian indie bands],' Tsang says. Local musicians who perform in English are beginning to see the possibility of reaching out to a worldwide audience as young people are now more globally-orientated, Benson says. 'Their world is not confined to Hong Kong. They are not trying to be famous ... but because of the internet, a local band with a song on MySpace can get responses from people overseas.' Websites such as Alivenotdead.com play an active role in promoting local English-language acts such as Audiotraffic as well as groups with international appeal. Alivenotdead was launched as a resource link for local musicians but has since evolved into a network for various artists, including action film star Jet Li Lianjie. 'We don't aim specifically at [music lovers abroad], but because our user-base is worldwide and a significant portion of them speak English, our website helps these bands develop a fan base overseas,' says Raffi Kamalian, a member of the team running the site. 'By giving these bands a platform to connect with new fans, to promote themselves through blogs, videos and photo albums, they can find fans in other parts of Asia, North America and Europe.' Hip hop group 24 Herbs, for instance, has found through the site buyers from around the world for its mix of colloquial Cantonese and English rap. 'We have people in Toronto, Sydney and London listening to our music,' says J. Brian Siswojo, aka Sir JBS, of the multicultural group. 'They e-mailed and told us they like our music. These people may never have been to Hong Kong.' The internet also generates opportunities for indie bands performing in English to work with overseas artists. For instance, local punk outfit Hard Candy collaborated with award-winning Italian filmmaker Marco Marchesi to produce a music video for their song 11 Happy Tricks. The clip, which was posted online last year, helped them develop a reputation in Europe. '[Marchesi] found [the band] on the internet and offered to help us make a music video,' says Pang Yan-yan, who writes the group's English lyrics. 'I invested Euro150 [HK$1,850] and he paid the rest. We only found out afterwards that he has been making music videos for bands in Europe and is quite famous. We still haven't met him in person.' 'Performing in English has taken us farther down the road in music,' he says. Hard Candy have played several Asian cities, and earlier this year performed in a series of concerts in the Philippines with other groups. But for many record companies in Hong Kong, English-language releases are a way to bring in new revenue as record sales slump to an all-time low. 'Fewer people buy records now, especially Canto-pop,' says Keith Yip Kin-wah, director of label Rock In Music. 'As a result, we now focus on producing albums with sound quality for hi-fi enthusiasts. You need to invest a lot of money to promote pop songs, but [marketing] singers to audiophiles doesn't involve large-scale promotions.' Hence the steady success of singers such as Susan Wong Chui-san, whose distinctive vocals have won her a following among English music lovers and hi-fi fans in the region. Close to You (2002), her collection of English pop covers aimed at audiophiles, became a top seller in Hong Kong and countries such as Singapore and Indonesia mostly through word of mouth. Someone Like You, an album she released last year, sold more than 7,000 copies in its first week, on par with many heavily promoted Canto-pop releases. Wong also says there may be a generational factor. 'Canto-pop is for people aged between 16 and 25 or 26. Beyond that age, you have more experience in life and begin to look to other types of music.'