Monday, 20 December 2010

The Grand Daddy of Hong Kong Lyrics Writer: Lin Xi (林夕)

It was an eye opening experience to hear the talk presented by Lin Xi (林夕) on lyrics writing.  The talk was enlightening as much as thought provoking, it was worth the $100 my wife paid the extra ticket for me to join the event.

The publicity material of the talk.  (Note that it was sponsored by Baron School of Music from where a course on lyrics writing, taught by Lin Xi, was scheduled for enrolment soon afterwards.)   

The title of the talk: Lyrics - Epoch, was attractive enough to draw in audiences.  It was widely known that Lin has business acumen, and the full house proved this point.  As the talk gradually demonstrated itself that the subject of "epoch" was all but lacking.  Lin further revealed to discerning eyes that he had done little preparation for the talk.  The content had no focus.  There was nothing new in his speech.  His talk on lyrics was all skin deep and jumpy from the 1970s to 80s, and from the contemporary period back to 90s.

He quoted lyrics and the development of writing throughout the heydays of Cantopop  repeatedly around the best known songs of Sam Hui (許冠傑), Faye Wong (王菲) and Eason Chan (陳奕信).  Every other local guy in Hong Kong could have done this level of talk as he did.  Understandingly but perhaps unforgivably, he kept falling back to finance and investment catch-phrases when talking about lyrics writing.  It was not a surprise that the entire duration of talk was at times frivolous, at times incomprehensible.  To dare repeating myself, he was often quoted as a very active property and stock market investor.  One can understand his stream of thoughts and communication habits hack back to these interests.

When the talk eventually came to the end, I praised goodness for this.  Maybe he did as well.  It was followed by a question and answer session.  A few questions were raised by supporters on the meaning of particular lyrics he did for some songs.  There was nothing wrong if these audiences had their own views in the first place.  What was disturbing was the fact that they asked Lin to give them his "official" meaning behind the lyrics.  As such, it appeared that his dawning of light would settle their confused minds.

One elder gentleman challenged if Lin could produce better lyrics on the grand concept of ‘love’.  He did not hesitate to recite a few of his verses most audience had waited long enough to hear.  Though a bit muddled, another overwhelming round of applause was ensured.

Given the unbearable air of uncritical question and answer session up to this point, I borrowed the microphone and asked Lin if he had monopolized the lyrics writing industry.  (Mind you Lin was in the business from the mid 80s up to now, it is not exaggerated he wrote for most singers and in most albums!)  For my abrupt question, he was hesitant for seconds, murmuring a little and replied that monopoly had to be systematic, organized, the minorities was unfairly treated...  I have explained that he had the knack of explaining things by using business and investment catch-phrases.

I did not ask him further questions.  I just wanted him to know that there are people in this city who were not happy with his overwhelming amount of outputs and the music industry in general.  Yes he was not the culprit of the flawed music industry in Hong Kong.  The true monopolisers are the four major music/entertainment companies in the city.  They control and systemically exert influences on all aspect of popular music businesses including exclusive contract rights of singers, song and lyrics writers, music production and publishing, etc.  Furthermore, they have friendly business interests in radio, TV, Karaoke and concert organizing companies.  In simple terms, these companies and people behind are the exclusive players that shape the current mindless, puppy-love Cantopop culture.

The money generated from the music industry is big.  These few companies benefit most from the HK pop music market.  The beefier slice of dosh actually comes from media sponsorship.  All well known singers appear in commercials and other forms of advertisement.  Almost invariably, most of them are actors and actress in movies in Hong Kong and China.  All of these are money generators that have synergy effects among each other.  This is where the real money is.  This is also how and why the music industry in this city is so rotten in recent years.  

  Lin Xi 林夕 in previous public talk (photo from the Internet).

Typical Hong Kong pop stars in award ceremony  where most of them get an award or a trophy. (photo from the Internet)

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