As Tsim Sha Tsui becomes the new Mong Kok for Hong Kong: is it really about local culture?
I am writing to express my concern over the erstwhile Mong Kok pedestrian zone performers, ousted over noise complaints, who have now turned to Tsim Sha Tsui.
Culture is usually defined as the common practices, customs and food of a particular group of people. For example, we would say that fish balls and siu mai represent Hong Kong food culture. We would also say that Cantonese is the core of our culture. Now the street performers in Mong Kok claim that shutting down the area has caused a loss of Hong Kong culture. Do middle-aged singing and square-dancing aunties, commonly known as “dai ma”, really represent our culture?
In fact, a lot of them are ballad singers who sing Mandarin songs. My question for them is: how can they promote Hong Kong culture by singing Mandarin songs which most Hongkongers have never heard of? Just performing in front of the public in Hong Kong does not mean that your performance is a part of Hong Kong culture. It is the content of your performance that matters.
Watch: Last day, last shows at Mong Kok pedestrian zone
Although some singers do perform Cantonese songs, they are definitely not of the calibre of professional musicians, since they sing off-key. I would be sad if off-key singing on the streets was seen as part of our Hong Kong culture. In fact, these “dai ma” contrast greatly with the quality singers in Tsim Sha Tsui, who sing Cantonese songs beautifully.
These Mong Kok performers do not represent Hong Kong culture. But we should reflect upon why there are a lot of middle-aged people singing and dancing on the streets. I believe that this is because our community has yet to provide them with enough entertainment facilities. A lot of the fans of these performers, as I’ve observed, are retired people with little to fill their days. If there can be more community centres or free places where they can spend their time, they might not stay on the streets.
Anson Chan, North Point