The Locality of Cantopop Production

Helan H L Yang, Edmond Tsang

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper


Cantopop, a local pop genre from Hong Kong sung to Cantonese lyrics, is a quintessential example of musical mobility, the genre’s developmental trajectory closely tied to musical trends elsewhere, it being a tiny node in the global popular music network. Influences and covers of Shanghai pop of the 1930s and 1940s, Western pop and rock of the 1950s and 1960s, J-pop and K-pop of the 1980s and the 2000s abound. Dubbed as “always hybrid” (Anthony Fung 2020) or a case of “aesthetic cosmopolitanism” (Regev 2003, cited in Yang 2021), this paper however intends to provide an alternative narrative informed by interviews with over fifteen local musicians (songwriters, arrangers, and producers) regarding their engagement with music technology such as digital music interfaces, plug-ins, and forms of collaborative authorship beyond physical boundaries in their creativities in the past two decades. We suggest that it is these local musicians’ ingenuity and creativity that have kept Hong Kong’s music industry afloat due to the city’s unique geopolitical context, namely very high property value, fierce competitions from abroad, loss of talents to the PRC market, least to say the tightening of expressive possibilities. We further that digitalization has also given room to musicians to be more original and creative. We argue that cantopop is uniquely local, not only because of its lyrics, but also of local musicians’ creative practices, and most importantly the cultural memories shared by those who made and consumed the genre.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2021
EventWorkshop on Cross-Cultural Studies: Music, Mobilities, and Transnational Negotiation - G04, Chan Chun Ha Hall, SH Ho College, Hong Kong
Duration: 8 Dec 2021 → …


WorkshopWorkshop on Cross-Cultural Studies: Music, Mobilities, and Transnational Negotiation
Country/TerritoryHong Kong
Period8/12/21 → …
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