Since PMQ opened in April, its aim has been to give Hongkongers a chance to enjoy the arts throughout the summer. One such event was the Urban Arts Labs Community Jam, which featured some of the best urban artists from Hong Kong and all over the world in musical jams, dance sessions, graffiti workshops and other activities. Young Post checked it out ...
The School of Hip Hop and Fake Frog Productions worked together to hold the Urban Arts Labs Community Jam at the revamped PMQ (formerly the Police Married Quarters) studio in Central on May 25.
The event began with hip hop dance workshops to local tunes. Also, children tried graffiti painting for the first time, and urban hip hop artists showed off their spray-painting skills with a funky work of graffiti.
The local acoustic band Slumberland started the performances with covers of famous Canto-pop songs. Having come together three years ago, the group consists of Kaki, the vocalist, Felix on keyboard, Henry on guitar and Tommy on drums. They met in the same neighbourhood, and began by doing covers.
"Then we moved on to trying out Western music," says Henry. "I remember we used to play songs by the Jonas Brothers."
They recently started composing their own songs, and six of them are out already.
The band like to base their songs on social issues. "One of our Chinese songs is called Same Love," says Kaki. "With the song, we wanted to tell people that love should not be restricted ... everyone deserves the same amount of love."
Still, they admit Hong Kong's music-making scene is rather difficult to describe.
"Hong Kong people on average know how to play two instruments, but they're willing to play them just to get good grades in music exams or meet their parents' expectations. The whole music-making mindset is missing," Henry says.
They encouraged youngsters to make music together. "Jamming with others opens up communication among people and allows more vibrant beats to be created," Felix says.
Ghetto dance culture
The community jam also featured a dance workshop by American contemporary dancer Daniel E Kelley III.
Going by the stage name Future, he showed off his hip hop moves at a workshop, giving the Hong Kong crowd a taste of the New York ghetto dance culture. His passion for dance and graffiti dated back to hip hop's roots. "I began dancing at the age of 10 at the time the hip hop universe was just being formulated in New York," he says.
"I remember as a kid, we used to hold block parties where everyone gathered, much like the community jam today. Along with a DJ, we had dancers willing to try out some new dance moves. This whole ghetto movement is what developed into the underground hip hop we all know and love today."
But he sees a lack of creativity today. "When you look at kids nowadays, they seem to follow the main crowd. No one wants to be different," he says.
Kelley is equally down about the future of hip hop. "Everything has become very commercialised nowadays. All the elements of the once grand hip hop power are being dissected. Hip hop music is being dominated by rappers who chase money, and graffiti is climbing to the graphic design level. Hip hop power as a whole is breaking up."
Keen to see today's young dancers step into hip hop, he is working at Elements of Freedom, a company dedicated to training young dancers to improve their freestyle and jazz skills, and pass them on to up-and-comers.
Kelley also urged the commercial sector to play a more active role in promoting such cultural events by offering sponsorships, rather than taking part just for the economic benefit. "Money makes the world go round, but people run the machines that make the world go round. We need to convey the message of humanity, not work solely for profit," he says
He hopes this community jam can inspire Hongkongers to add a little hip hop shimmy into their lives. "Dance isn't just a hobby; it can be a way of life," he says. "Dance is actually very similar to kung fu. It's about pushing yourself to evolve, to find your inner dancer."
Kelley believes such events help bring our communities closer together. "It's time we brought humanity back into the community," he says, "and stop being separated by technology."