Golden era of tomorrow: West Kowloon’s Popfest to unite over 200 Hong Kong artists to imagine future of city’s music

  • HKT x WestK Popfest will be the city’s largest pop music festival, featuring Cantopop stars, indie singers, golden-era tributes and dance parties galore
  • Paul Tam, who spearheaded the ambitious event, hopes the festival can unlock opportunities for Hong Kong’s musicians to thrive in the city and abroad
Kelly Fung |

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The 10-day event at West Kowloon will feature four main programmes. Photo: Winson Wong

Hong Kong’s largest pop music festival will soon be under way – and it’s all about sparking synergy.

HKT x WestK Popfest, curated by West Kowloon, is the city’s first to feature more than 200 local artists from mainstream singers like Janice Vidal, Ivana Wong and Collar to indie artists such as Novel Friday and Matt Force.

The 10-day event from March 22 to April 2 features four main programmes: “Unboxed”, four dance party sessions celebrating the city’s indie scene; “I Am What I Am”, a tribute to late Cantopop legend Leslie Cheung; “Dragon’s Delusion – Paracusia”, an immersive sci-fi event; and “Popnorama”, a three-day outdoor event showcasing 19 performances, many of which feature unique collaborations, such as a partnership between Yoyo Sham and jazz pianist Joyce Cheung and another with Kaho Hung and R&B artist Gordon Flanders.

Edan Lui, Ian Chan, Keung To and Anson Lo – four members of popular Hong Kong boy band, Mirror – will give the finale performances at “Popnorama”.

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A collaboration with the M+ museum, “Dragon’s Delusion – Paracusia” will screen a cyberpunk animated film from local artist Kongkee, alongside a live musical ensemble featuring traditional Chinese instruments and thumping post-punk beats.

Paul Tam, executive director of performing arts at the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, said the festival’s goal was to push the city’s artistic boundaries.

“Hong Kong’s pop music scene is flourishing with a diverse range of artists, from Mirror to the Japanese-style girl group Otome Syndream ... Hong Kong has the capacity to [embrace them], but it comes down to whether these artists have a big stage for their talents to be seen,” said Tam, who spearheaded the festival.

“I am completely confident in the future of Hong Kong’s Cantopop,” he shared, adding that with the resumption of international travel, he anticipated 30,000 to 40,000 attendees over its ten-day run.

Paul Tam is the executive director for performing arts at the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority. Photo: Dickson Lee

Supporting the local indie music scene

“Cantopop has entered an interesting phase ... and we can take advantage of this opportunity to help these Hong Kong artists thrive and shine. I believe that West Kowloon can serve as a useful platform for this,” Tam said.

He added that the city’s indie artists were gaining more recognition than ever, praising how young people supported and “owned” these musicians.

“We have been paying attention to the performances at the Livehouse in the West Kowloon Cultural District, where various local independent musicians and indie bands hold live shows. Every time we finish watching, we feel that Hong Kong has many hidden musical talents.”

He explained that the initial idea for Popfest was to hold a small independent music festival for a week to expose more Hongkongers to these artists, but the event grew more ambitious as it received more resources.

“We wanted to do more than just ordinary concerts that could be easily accessed online,” Tam said, sharing that he contacted M+ to collaborate and invited mainstream singers, indie musicians and even comic artists to “incorporate a sense of playfulness” into the festival.

A colourful tribute to Cantopop

“I Am What I Am – A Tribute to Leslie Cheung” is a special multimedia commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the late Cantopop legend’s passing.

Featuring avant-garde artist Daniel Chu as music director alongside Janice Vidal and up-and-coming music producer Walter Kwan as vocalists, the concert will help audiences relive the original flavour of Cheung’s classics.

The performance will incorporate string instruments, along with the unique sounds of a resonator guitar.

Through the event, the audience can reminisce on the pop icon’s distinct aesthetics and charm, reflecting on the profound influence he had on the local music scene.

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Meanwhile, Disco Night, a free audiovisual celebration held at M+, will transport visitors back in time to the golden age of Cantopop music in the 80s. Revellers can dance and groove to remixes of iconic songs.

“Everyone thinks the Cantopop singers from their own generation are the best,” Tam said, commenting on the genre’s history while recognising the potential of the contemporary local music scene.

He hopes that the festival can unlock more opportunities for local artists to thrive.

“Hong Kong’s pop music has reached a pivotal moment,” he said. “We wonder how we should ... [help] local artists and musicians to flourish in the city or even on an international level.”

“Artists cannot be stuck in their own room to ... do music – they need inspiration and interaction for their art to grow.”

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