Silver lining

Silver lining

The Chung Brothers prove that failing piano exams doesn't block the road to success, writes Melanie Leung

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In their latest album, Roger (left) and Henry Chung suggest possible solutions to society's problems.
In their latest album, Roger (left) and Henry Chung suggest possible solutions to society's problems.

It was a rainy day, but that did not bother the musical duo, Henry and Roger Chung. Dressed in jeans and casual shirts, the Chung Brothers spoke earnestly of their frustrations with Hong Kong society while munching on egg tarts.

They are not just complainers. The pair also suggest possible solutions to society's problems in the form of their newest album Edge, released earlier this month.

Edge focuses on Hong Kong's current bipolar situation.

"Our society is divided into extremes, between the rich and the poor, and between the happy and the sad," says Henry, the older brother who wrote all the lyrics for the album.

One of its songs, The Anti-Establishment Blues, covers a range of political and environmental issues, such as air pollution, rural development plans, and politicians' apparent indifference to the people. The song was widely shared by prominent personalities, such as politician Claudia Mo Man-ching and academic Simon Shen Xu-hui. It gained a lot of media coverage and has more than 59,000 views on YouTube since it was posted in May.

Another song, Fast Train, complains about mainland tourists flocking to the city and filling up the trains. It also points out how rising rents have almost eliminated small shops. "Our songs talk about the culture of sophistication. It's something that comes from people's heart and soul with the intention to do good for society," says Roger. "Like this egg tart from Honey Bakery [not a chain-store], I can tell it's made from the heart."

While their first two albums focused on gospel music, they decided to drop the religious tone for Edge. The new album hopes to take Canto-pop to a new level by incorporating a wide range of music, including jazz, blues, soul, hip-hop, reggae, funk and classical. It features an impressive group of international and local musicians, such as Grammy award-winner Andraé Crouch, ukulele player Daniel Ho, jazz guitarist Eugene Pao and Hong Kong-based rapper Ghost Style.

Though they have won several awards, including "Best Jazz Artist of the Year" at the 2012 Chinese Music Awards, the Chung Brothers' musical success didn't come easy.

Henry used to fail his piano exams. "I was struggling playing classical music, and my piano teacher told me I was stupid," says Henry, who is a lawyer. "Children should be allowed to play songs they like, and not just ugly ones for exams."

Later, he developed an interest in the jazz harmonica while studying in the United States.

Roger, who is an assistant professor by trade, says Hong Kong students have little choice in the current education system. "Schools are like factories. They are based on the concept of mass production, to produce people with good grades," he says. "There should be more options because people might learn better if we used other methods to teach them."

Despite their grievances, the Chung Brothers remain hopeful. "If we're not, it will show in our actions and behaviour," says Roger. While they chattered on, the rain stopped. Henry stopped mid-sentence, and pointed to a rainbow shimmering in the sky.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Silver lining

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