Looking for an alternative on the Hong Kong music scene

Looking for an alternative on the Hong Kong music scene

Forget the same old boring Canto-pop, Hong Kong has some bright, upcoming guitar bands too

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The Pansies (four in centre) believe stage presence is important.
The Pansies (four in centre) believe stage presence is important.
Photo: Angus Leung

You expect to hear cheerful music at the carnival, to go with the screams of people on nearby rides. But last Friday, the AIA European Carnival had something else in store.

YouTuber Ryan Higa was there for a while, causing screams of a different kind. After he finished, the crowds dispersed, taking little notice of the casually-dressed teenagers taking to the Central harbourfront main stage. They slung on their guitars, flipped their drumsticks and began to play.

They were the student finalists in Battle of the Bands, where 30 bands went head to head in a competition organised by The Underground, an organisation that supports local bands, and company Parsons Music. The four bands in the final had 12 minutes to play three songs - and many performed original tracks.

The judges, including RubberBand guitarist Clement Fung Ting-ching, were impressed.

"I think they're better than us in many ways. They have a tonne of passion. You can tell they put in a lot of effort," he says.

While the local mainstream music scene is known for producing the same old pop sound, the bands were out to prove that there's more to Hong Kong than Canto-pop.

OneDayMore opened the set with rock; The Pansies performed several punk songs; Smile with Aye incorporated Chinese speech and poetic lyrics into their deftly-played rock music; and Parallel Horizons turned heads with their high-energy, heavy metal.

"Each band has their unique style, so it's hard to say what's good," says judge Edwin Lo, founder of Bitetone, an online music magazine. "A punk rock band wouldn't be as technical as a heavy metal band, and you have to use different criteria to judge them."

Smile with Aye and Parallel Horizons swept the prizes for best vocalist, guitarist, bassist and drummer.

It was Parallel Horizons member Shaun Apellido's first award for drumming, but the 17-year-old student from Delia Memorial School (Broadway), says it was great to receive praise from people outside the metal community.

"They actually enjoyed our music. We originally thought they'd be scared because we have some noisy screaming and guitars," he says.

Lo says the most important thing is that band members work well together.

"Everyone must know their role in the band," says Lo. "You need to know how to distinguish your sound while complementing your teammates. The bass and the drums must be really tight together."

Lo says it's also important to have a clear message, because music is a medium for expression.

The grand prize went to The Pansies. The band's vocalist Noah Ringrose attributes their win to their strong stage presence and raw sound. Their songs relate to Hong Kong society, with 689 and We Don't Like You being inspired by last year's Umbrella Movement.

"We were all part of [the movement] and really stood by it, trying to help out as much as possible," says Noah, a 16-year-old student at West Island School.

"I think it's just a release of anger that we all have at what society has become."

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Looking for an alternative

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