By Hans Ebert
Okay, let’s all stop the Princeathon as we have reached Information Overload about the Purple One.
Yes, Prince was a genius. He was an incredibly prolific recording artist who breathed, ate and inhaled music 24/7, and was, in these books, the best guitarist in the world capable of channeling Nile Rogers, Hendrix and someone from Planet Fender. Prince was a style icon, a black gender blender, something that, at the time, was taboo to tackle despite Little Richard flirting along the periphery of the same subject decades earlier with Tutti Fruitti. He was a mysterious man child who waged a war with his music company for his artistic beliefs, refused to join the “We Are The World” good samaritans tea party, didn’t seem to have much time for Michael Jackson, and was someone who loved women as much as he loved the process of creating his music, and who lived by his own rules.
Like that other musical chameleon, multi media artist and creative icon named David Bowie, Prince is gone. The grieving must stop before overkill devalues the product. Prince deserves more. As fans, we deserve more, and must fiercely guard his legacy. We owe that to a man who transformed Black music- and broke down barriers so music can live and grow and exhale under that Purple Rain When Doves Cry without labels and charts and control freaks.
Already, his former band The Revolution has jumped on the opportunist bandwagon and announced a Reunion Tour. My personal fear and trepidation every day is walking into a hotel lounge and hearing some fifth rate “jazzster” crippling “Purple Rain” or “Kiss”, and the audiences that these venues attract singing along to the choruses like a murder of crows. Gawd, no. Please. Let those doves cry in peace. It’s bad enough walking into bars in Wanchai or Lan Kwai Fong and hearing one of those robotic covers bands give Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” a rest along with Adele’s “Hello”, and morph into wannabe Princelings while struggling to go back and party like it’s “1999″. What’s happened to creativity? Did someone bludgeon it to death?
On the subject of creativity, there was an interesting Letter To The Editor in the South China Morning Post yesterday about the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens and the dross it serves up as entertainment. This year as part of “Reinventville Sevens”, the headline act was the Hoff- “actor” David Hasselhoff who has parlayed a lack of talent into commercial cheese- and an ABBA covers band named- oh dear- Bjorn Again.
One can understand the thinking of the organisers and the Think Tank they went fishing with: Everyone is there at the Hong Kong Football Stadium to get pissed and have a good time, so let’s just give them some funny cheese with holes in it, because there’s always cheese like William Shatner that can be seen as being hip- old cheese, but still hip.
The writer quite rightly questions the acts mentioned earlier before asking why there can’t be something like a Canto Rock Coachella festival since, according to him, Hong Kong has very good artists, concert promoters, booking agents etc with strong international roller decks etc etc. Hmmm.
In every music company I worked, too often, we came up against some of the most uncreative concert promoters around- which is not to say the music companies were fountains of unbridled creativity. Far from it, if truth be known with incompetence always being rewarded and leading all the way to the top of the heap.
As for the concert promoters, they had booked acts, but were clueless how to market them. And with little or no marketing dollars, they expected the music company to chip in as these were “our” acts, and, to them, their concerts could mean extra record sales. Really? But, we never asked for many of the acts to come out to the region. Plus, how many more Elton John’s Greatest Hits records could we sell when he seemed to come out to Hong Kong almost once a year? And dear old Reg performing without his band was more dire than watching a Diana Krall concert on auto pilot.
Where the writer hits the nail on the head is when he mentions Hong Kong having lost its edge in the area of providing cutting edge entertainment. And entertainment is all about creativity and having a vibrant creative community in what was once “Asia’s World City”.
Once fobbed off as “Swingabore”, Singapore runs rings and rings and rings around Hong Kong’s moribund entertainment “scene” because the Lion’s City looks at its creative product in a more international way.
Hong Kong, on the other hand has always been a closed shop. Foreigners- or as someone on Facebook who, apparently, is a local celebrity, recently showed his inferiority complex with personal swipes that could constitute defamation of character and rambled about how “minorities” cannot possibly comment on the local music industry- shows xenophobia at work. Why the international music companies here cannot export talent from their sister companies to give their local artists a different sound and resuscitate creativity shows that closed shop wanting to stay closed and happy with its bloated Canto plodders and their way over-the-top concerts starring their stylists. Next to them are those who are over the hill and have come out here from different points West either through a fluke or the luck of the draw.
With zero going for them wherever home might be- Winnipeg?- these average talents have been obscenely well paid for simply not being Chinese or Asian. Hong Kong might no longer be a colony, but it’s still to shake off that colonial mentality. And it’s still to rid itself of the usual suspects holding it back- all those wanting their palms greased over and over again because this is how it’s always been.
All this made me think about the fifth rate foreign entertainers booked by local agents into five star hotel lounges, and probably pulverising the hits of Prince even while I type, and some of the goofy acts and music festivals that have come and gone- and the festivals some are trying to get up and running- like an EDM- Electronic Dance Music- “festival” that starts at 7pm and must end by 11pm because of the sound ordinance that shackles the venue. An EDM “festival” that ends by 11pm? Why not have a nice little tea dance instead where everyone drops some E?
When it comes to stupidity in bringing world class entertainment to Hong Kong, let’s never forget the legislative councillor whose “brilliant” idea decades ago to get over the sound ordinance that was stopping an Elton John concert from taking place- what’s with Hong Kong and Elton John?- at the Hong Kong Football Stadium was this: Audiences were to be given out gloves to muffle the applause and listen to the concert wearing headphones. And people think Hong Kong cannot be creative?
Right now, nothing is working in Hong Kong starting with the politics, the Basic Law, and the One Country, Two Systems concept. Surely only the most naive would have thought that Hong Kong would not inherit a new Mother when the British sold this barren rock back to its original owners for a healthy profit and probably various clauses we’ll never hear about. Hell, it’s such a pothole of negativity here with restaurants opening and closing faster than a hooker’s legs, and even taxis are taking us for a ride. It’s like living through one last hurrah- a muted one.
Entertainment and everything entertainment is meant to be is not a priority. Look at the piss poor standard of advertising from Hong Kong today compared to the groundbreaking and award winning work of the Eighties and Nineties which dovetailed into the nightlife- Clubs like Canton, the start of Lan Kwai Fong, and the emergence of Bruce Lee.
The pride in once being a Hong Kong Belonger is gone. Trust in the government is gone along with all those empty promises about what the formation of CreateHK was going to mean to the local creative community. The government’s Duncan Pescod sure sold Hong Kong a nice cuppa bollocks with his sweet words and sweeter dreams for CreateHK.
CreateHK means bugger all and is just another white elephant plodding along with very few knowing what it does with the taxpayers’ money that keeps its staff and leader in the lifestyle to which they have now become accustomed.
When only the good- and GOD- people at Goods Of Desire are considered the most creative in town, well, Delay No More, Hong Kong, we have a problem.
And if we’re even going to be here for the long run, what’s there to keep us here- and inspire us? Mediocrity wherever we look? Jizz versions of “Purple Rain”, and people who no longer believe they have a say in “Asia’s World City” as they are “minorities” and belong in their own little space while cowering like the cowards they are and making fools of themselves in public forums?
This is very sad to see- Hong Kong becoming so local, so parochial and those intellectual midgets, legends in their own lunchtime, and rabid gossip mongers with way too much time on their hands- you know who you are and why you’re going back to Rehab, baby with a lawsuit in tow- who only find their gonads and a voice on places like Facebook while drinking dollops of jealousy from their half empty tumblers with life taking them on a one way journey to nowhere.