By Hans Ebert
As with anything it doesn’t understand, the Hong Kong government either ignores it, or else places various stumbling blocks to ensure that it’s silenced. And music should never ever be silenced. But unless it’s classical music or Canto Pop or one of those “nostalgia” concerts by someone from the Sixties singing the hits of Elvis, Herman’s Hermits and others from that era, those in the government given the power to issue all those various licenses needed to have music seen, heard and enjoyed, turn a deaf ear to it all. They’ve never heard of Dylan’s line, “Don’t criticise what you can’t understand”.
Let’s not forget that Hong Kong must have been one of the only countries that never accepted the sex, drugs and Rock and Roll of the Woodstock generation, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles when they tripped out, grew moustaches and beards, and recorded the equally trippy Revolver.
Let’s also not forget that Commercial Radio in Hong Kong actually refused to play music from those times, preferring to promote the start of Canto Pop, which the various executives in local music companies, radio and television had a vested interest in- financially. It was a commercial dictatorship and this narrow minded thinking continues today under different guises.
What this “ban” meant was that Hong Kong music fans lost out on almost a decade of Western music- Rock music.
These same executives aka clowns are still around- oldsters whose Western musical education ended with the Eagles and “Hotel California”. Some are also part of the government and remain fans- and friends- of local pop heroes from those days of yore. It’s another reason why Air Supply performs here with such monotonous regularity along with other blasts from the past. Hong Kong survives by clinging to the past. At least those managing this city does.
These bureaucrats are clueless about other forms of music unless being told to bring a little “culture” to Hong Kong by finding a venue for opera, chamber music or a symphony orchestra.
So hearing that Hidden Agenda, the home and showcase for Indie music in Hong Kong located at the Winful Industrial Estate in Kwun Tong, has had the government’s Lands Department decide that this needs to end (in October) because it breaches another of those rules and regulations- again, licensing issues- that are trotted out from time time, isn’t a surprise. It’s bureaucracy at work and something for some pencil pusher to do to show they’re doing something. It’s nothing to do with common sense, or that in 2016 rules are meant to be broken, or at least, amended.
So while Hidden Agenda tries to find a new home, taxpayers keep alive that white elephant known as that oxymoron CreateHK. CreateHK must be one of Hong Kong’s best kept secrets with few in the creative community knowing what it does and who’s in charge of this rudderless ship. The only recent news about CreateHK was that whoever has been heading up this government department to apparently help and promote the local creative community will soon retire. Really? What’s it actually achieved in the time it’s been allowed to plod along? What’s been its contribution to Hong Kong’s creative community?
While CreateHK has been allowed to quietly survive at its own snail’s pace, the government- in this instance, the Lands Department- can easily find a reason to close down Hidden Agenda and “forbid” (it sounds so freakily communist) industrial buildings from being used to promote forms of art.
Has it bothered to help look at finding options? Of course not. This would mean actually working. Plus, the word “Indie” probably gave the department heart palpitations.
It makes one wonder what would have happened to Hidden Agenda and these rules and regulations to do with industrial buildings if these were owned or managed by one of those fat cats from the Sixties and Seventies who plundered what was a fledgling music industry and got very rich by taking and never ever giving back.
Does anyone think that if any of these fat cats from the distant past were involved in Hidden Agenda a convenient loophole and solution wouldn’t have been found? This is becoming more and more evident in Hong Kong when it comes to any industry: It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It opens up doors that never even existed.
As for Hidden Agenda, finding a fairy godmother will be difficult because money’s too tight to mention everywhere. Suggested, however, is approaching the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s Charities Trust. It has the money. it has the power, it has the venues, and it’s part of the government- but with its own indie spirit.
There’s also the HKJC’s very successful Happy Wednesday brand that’s brought ‘live’ music to Happy Valley Racecourse, something unheard of a few years ago.
The naysayers who’ve performed at its venue known as the Beer Garden 3-4 years ago will pour cold water on this concept by saying no one’s listening to the music. Everyone’s there to gamble”.
Those who natter on like this with their half-empty glasses are just fools jumping to conclusions and clueless as to how the Happy Wednesday brand has evolved- and continues to evolve- with a regular attendance of over 12,000 people each week – and certainly not horse racing “uncles” clutching their newspapers and form guides.
For those who made the effort to make Hidden Agenda the success it has become, perhaps look past the obvious and the usual suspects. Apart from what it has already given Hong Kong, The HKJC Charities Trust could, given the right reasons and rationale, not only help Hidden Agenda find a new home.
It might even help with the funding to create a local music industry that’s vibrant, young, creative and with true international appeal. Gawd knows it’s about time- something Hong Kong is running out of along with the patience to suffer fools gladly.