Why the 80's was the coolest decade

Why the 80's was the coolest decade

Neon clothes, cool music and lots of dancing - it's about time we revisited the 1980s

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Fang holds a pose
Fang holds a pose
Photo: Bruce Yan / SCMP

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Sincere Wu and Rock Fang show off some 80s fashion
Sincere Wu and Rock Fang show off some 80s fashion
Photo: Sincere Wu

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DJ Galaxy spinning records
DJ Galaxy spinning records
Photo: DJ Galaxy

You may not have been there during the 1980s, but you probably listen to hip hop spun by DJs and sing along to Sam Hui or Leslie Cheung classics.

The 80s has never gone out of fashion, and we still see its influence all around us.

"The eighties were a golden period for performing arts," says Sheryl Lee, creative producer of Beats of 80s, a music spectacle which celebrates the decade. 

"All of Hong Kong's most representative artists, movies and music are from that period."

And it wasn't just artists, either. If you see someone wearing a headband, high-waisted trousers or a pair of Vans, they are sporting some iconic 80s style.

Here are four things we still love from the decade.

Aerobics

"And one, and two, and remember to breathe …"

You can't get any more 80s than a group of women working out in neon leotards.

Aerobics, which falls half way between a dance and a gym session, is a great way to stay in shape. That's why it's still popular today.

Participants work out to music as an instructor leads the class. The exercise increases the heart rate and burns calories.

Aerobics became popular with the introduction of Reebok's stepboard in the 80s, says Sincere Wu, from Seasons Fitness.

The loud leotards were originally designed to show off the movement of the body, but they soon became a fashion statement.

"[Aerobics is] especially popular among ladies because they can do it with a group of friends" says Wu. "It's an achievable workout, and you can be fashionable, too."

If you're a guy who wants to give it a go, don't worry: most fitness centres have now dropped the leotards.

Beatbox

Beatboxing, or creating a drum beat using your voice and mouth, was popularised by American hip-hop trio The Fat Boys in the 80s.

While beatboxing has evolved to include more electronic and acoustic sounds, it is still one of the easiest ways to make music - you don't even need an instrument.

"I'm a very lazy person," says RX Wong Ho-pong, a local beatboxer. "You can do it anywhere. Plus, it looks cool."

Long before beatboxing became big around the world, the Chinese were doing something similar, according to RX.

"Instead of drums, they mimicked all sorts of sounds, from water dripping to birds chirping, to traditional instruments such as the erhu," he says.

For those who would like to try beatboxing, you can check out RX's tutorial videos on YouTube.

DJs

DJs have been around for a long time, but the hip-hop style emerged in the 1970s when DJ Kool Herc started mixing drum beats and speaking over it. This developed into rapping. The music was popular here in the 80s as part of Canto disco culture.

As cool and spontaneous as a DJ might seem, Hong Kong-based DJ Galaxy says it's hard work. A good DJ has to listen to a lot of music and decide the best way to string it together.

"Our responsibility is to build an atmosphere in which people want to dance," he says. "You need to see how the crowds are reacting and adjust your beats accordingly."

If you want to give it a go, start with simple scratches, and then try to chop songs together.

Dance

Compared with today's moves, dancing in the 80s was a lot less technical, says Rock Fang, a choreographer at Studiodanz.

"Dance and music are inseparable," says Fang. "Eighties' music has very simple beats, so the dance moves are [more about] expressing emotion."

But it's not easy.

"For fast moves, you can cover up mistakes," says dance student To Ching-yiu, 23. "But for the simple moves, you really need to focus."

Beginners should start with simple moves in 80s music videos by Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui, adds Fang.

Sincere Wu, RX Wong, DJ Galaxy, Rock Fang and others will perform at Beats of 80s music show at tmtplaza in Tuen Mun this weekend

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Dance the decade away

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