Alex Fung’s new instrumental album a nostalgic take on Canto-pop he grew up with

Chapter II Stars of my Universe has new versions of ’90s classics and rearranged songs that are more like film soundtracks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2016, 12:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 July, 2016, 9:58am

Of all the highlights in Alex Fung Hon-ming’s 16 years in Hong Kong’s pop music industry, his latest recording is probably the most satisfying yet.

Released on August 3, Chapter II Stars of my Universe is the least commercial music project from the 36-year-old producer/composer/lyricist.

It is an instrumental album and features new arrangements of Canto-pop hits from the 1990s such as Hacken Lee Hak-kan’s Farewell Campus and Lover by rock band Beyond.

WATCH Alex Fung on Facebook Live

“It’s nostalgia for the music of my childhood,” says Fung, who grew up listening to these Canto-pop songs. Fung hopes his audiences will have flashbacks as they listen to his versions of the classics.

They will also hear some new things as Fung puts a spin on familiar tunes by adding elements such as slow electronic dance music, and acoustic sounds such as cello and viola.

Fung also rearranged some of the songs. Instead of having the usual rigid structure of verse-chorus-verse, the songs are now more like film soundtracks, with dramatic highs and lows and unexpected twists.

“I am trying to introduce different genres to Hong Kong. Based on Canto-pop, I want to introduce more options,” says Fung.

While many artists and producers have moved on to Mando-pop which has a larger market and more money to be made, Fung refuses to give up on Canto-pop.

“It’s pretty sad for the music business. Because everything is becoming free, the budget is shrinking, the industry is getting smaller, more difficult. It’s hard, but at the same time, I am more motivated,” says Fung.

Since entering the pop music industry in 2001, Fung has produced acclaimed records for stars such as Joey Yung Cho-yee and Denise Ho Wan-see. He released his solo album Chapters and took the stage with singer-songwriter Ivana Wong Yuen-chi and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

Hong Kong canto-pop singer and award-winning actress Ivana Wong on her relationship with long-time collaborator Alex Fung Hong-ming

Despite his success, Fung believes that excessive commercialism stifles creativity and the astronomical cost of living is not conducive to making music. His way of battling that is by grooming young performing artists and singers, and backstage talents such as arrangers and songwriters and giving them a chance to shine.

“I want to let everyone know that people in Hong Kong are creative and talented. We just need to work on finding our own creative space,” says Fung.

Canto-pop is criticised for being unoriginal and manufactured, but Chapter II Stars of my Universe is proof that there is still talent and vibrancy in the local industry. However, by straying from convention, Fung and his record label are taking a leap of faith.

“I am not a business person. I can’t care for the commercial value too much when I do my stuff. But at the same time, I will give 200 per cent to every single step to make it perfect, not just musically, but also technically,” says Fung.

I know not many people buy CDs nowadays. But if they do, I want them to have the highest quality that I can offer
Alex Fung

The songs were recorded in his studio in Sheung Wan, and mastered by New York-based engineer Greg Calbi, who has also worked with artists such as Bon Iver and Norah Jones, and mastered the soundtrack of the blockbuster film Interstellar.

“I know not many people buy CDs nowadays. But if they do, I want them to have the highest quality that I can offer. That’s the little effort we can put out to show our sincerity, that we still care about the quality of music in Hong Kong.”

Another good reason to get the CD is that it will come with music scores. The music sheets come in three different levels; there is full transcription which allows people to play exactly as Fung did, as well as simple chords for beginners to play along.

And as Fung says, you don’t have to be Yo-Yo Ma to play cello.