When arriving in Hong Kong from what was then Ceylon on a slow boat to “China” and hoping like hell that my friends in kindergarten would never ever find out that unlike them, my family was not going to settle down in Melbourne- for some reason, a magnet for us Dutch Burghers- my favourite curry became a Chinese beef curry and rice.
Having no domestic helper and with both parents working as we were hardly even close to middle class status, my mother had arranged for me to have lunch after school at a nearby restaurant in North Point.
Thinking back, it wasn’t a great curry- some tinned curry paste poured over some thin slices of beef and a few potatoes. It’s all I ever ate in the restaurant. It must have been quite a show as the waiters and chefs would come out just to watch me eat. Often, they would give me a free side order of something I had never eaten in Ceylon- pancakes.
Nothing personal, but it seems like it’s skipped a generation. Maybe even two. The giving out of The Smarts and Smarties and understanding how and when and where to use them.
Think about the Sixties and its explosion of creativity- photographers like David Bailey, and Robert Freeman, the way the Beatles changed the world, the movies, the Mad Men of advertising, Antonioni, Malcolm McLaren, Andrew Loog Oldham, Chris Blackwell, Vivienne Westwood, Sergio Leone, the writers, the leaders. Television. All the changes. Changes for the better.
People ask why there’s never been a Pop group like the Beatles. Or how and why the yin and yang of Lennon and McCartney worked?
Below is something I had forgotten I had written until someone sent it to me earlier today asking, What’s happening with CreateHK? What is, if anything?
Over a decade ago, Duncan Pescod, the government’s fluffy puffy boy, got on his high horse and announced a GLOBAL search for someone truly world class when it came to creativity and inspiring new local talent. This person was going to head up the uniquely named CreateHK.
We didn’t get Steven Spielberg. We didn’t even get Tori Spelling. We ended up with some bloke named Jerry Liu. “Jer” did his tour of duty and retired a reasonably wealthy man. What had he accomplished? Pretty much squat.
Some people just can’t help being LOUD. And at the Champagne Bar of the Grand Hyatt, it was where many LOUD people congregated during HKIR week. Many from overseas. It was tough to take.
On Sunday, after the last race at Sha Tin had been run and horse racing’s “Woodstock Generation” was heading home came a booming voice how Hong Kong racing had “found its mojo again.” Maybe it had. Maybe it was just hiding. Often, it’s all about timing. Whatever.
Warning: This isn’t the Hong Kong that was around two years ago. Or even a year ago. A shopper’s paradise? Hardly. Those nouveau riche Mainland Chinese came in droves a few years ago, shops closed exclusively for them to overpay for luxury items before the spending was finally reined in.
Walk through the Landmark and Pacific Place and very often the staff outnumber customers. Those big name brands just lie there. Unless there’s some seasonal sale. Or an Everything Must Go Sale.
It’s like restaurants, bars and clubs. One day, they’re there. The next they’re gone. It’s all about over supply and demand. And more often than not, no demand. Other than the occasional drunk tourist being thrown out of Escape in Jaffe Road, except for Dust Till Dawn, Wanchai is dead.
You can’t even get your favourite Madras Chicken Curry from Jimmy’s Kitchen in Hong Kong anymore. So how the hell does one expect to be inspired enough to continue with everything else? But one still does. Trudging up those steps. Asking for forgiveness. Seeking redemption. Always searching for that elusive burst of inspiration. Settling for mediocrity because creativity is in such short supply. Listening to talk leading nowhere.
Gave up on reading Bob or Bill’s Big Book years ago that was going to lead to finding that higher power. That was a wasted journey. Cracked. Just another crutch.
Yesterday I went through eight business meetings. All in the same place. Only one made any sense. Why? He was smart. Knew his music. Can write. Really knows this thing called social media. Still excited about new musicians. Like artists from Mongolia. Told me things I never knew. How Hip Hop existed in Mongolia over twenty years ago.
A very short time before he suddenly passed away in June, barrister Kevin Egan, 70, called as he always did on a race day to ask what I fancied for a Six Up. It was the only bet he made. Sunday afternoons was time for him to get away from everything on his boat. After he had placed his Six Up.
We would exchange notes. He was always surprised when mentioning that one particular Australian jockey’s ride should not be left out of calculations.
As was the norm, big Kev, who went out of his way to help many, especially in the racing game and suddenly finding themselves unwittingly in trouble or facing the wrath of the almighty Stewards, would mumble, “That little thief? He couldn’t lie straight in bed! The club should have got rid of him a decade ago!”
It really should be called “Crazy Rich Singaporean Chinese”, but “Crazy Rich Asians” is what it is, and the movie based on 2013 book of the same name by Singaporean American author Kevin Kwan has extremely quickly crept up on the world. It’s box office boffo in America. But how well will it travel in this region?
One has to also wonder if the Orange Julius in the White House will ever watch it? Wonder if its success and interest in the success of the movie by talk show hosts has to do with everything going on in America today? The xenophobia that shows no signs of subsiding.
Hong Kong has been Canto Popped and Jazzified. When it comes to music and something remotely approaching a music scene, there’s no middle ground. One is in one camp or the other. Rock was forced to roll over and disappear. There’s a sad story to why that happened.
As for where music in this city is today, and though loathe to bring ageism into this subject, what comes out in the wash is a very tired ‘look’ with the usual suspects going round and round in circles.
Let’s stop with the Lack Of Venues mantra. Why not think about the lack of musicians? Especially very good musicians. How many are there in Hong Kong? Twenty? Ten? Less? And musicians playing what?