June 9th, 2010

(Private) Eyes on the Street

Posted in Asia Pacific, Music, Society and Culture, Video by Christopher DeWolf
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These days, the sweet ballads of Cantopop might seem like they are smothering whatever creative spark Hong Kong’s music scene might have, but that wasn’t always the case. In the 1970s, Cantonese pop was populist, exciting and avant-garde. Until then, most of the popular music recorded in Hong Kong was in Mandarin. It was the rise of the local TV and film industry to make Cantonese music for the masses, often in the form of theme songs that ran during the opening credits (a tradition that still exists on television today).

Ask anyone who defined the sound and ethos of 1970s Cantopop and Sam Hui‘s name will invariably crop up. Raised in So Uk, a public housing estate, Hui sang humourously about everyday Hong Kong life in a vernacular language that people could easily identify with. (His song about the 1960s water shortage is a classic.) He was also an actor, appearing two dozen movies between 1973 and 2000.

The opening sequence of the 1976 comedy The Private Eyes is a great montage of Hong Kong street scenes, accompanied by a song by Hui with the usual topical references to Hong Kong life and culture. There’s a funny English version, but it’s meaningless — all of the local commentary has been removed.

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One comment

  1. Gimp says:


    A ‘better’ translation.

    May 13th, 2011 at 6:58 pm