Art is for everyone – this is the philosophy of local NGO Arts with the Disabled Association Hong Kong (ADAHK), which strives to create equal opportunities for people with disabilities to take part in and enjoy the arts.
The organisation has its own band, Omega, made up of pianist Terry Ngan, lead vocalist and guitarist Wilson Yung, and drummer Tony Chan. All three have mild mental or learning disabilities.
The group rocked the stage last Friday at South Island School’s annual International Evening, a celebration of diversity which raised money for ADAHK.
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Just before their performance, Young Post chatted to the band about how they met and their experiences together.
Like all great bands, Omega had to start somewhere. For each of them, music has been a lifelong obsession.
“I’ve listened to a lot of music such as English rock, folk, and pop [since] I was a kid.” said Yung. “When I was in secondary school, I [took] guitar and drumming classes to learn about music.”
“I’ve been learning the piano for almost 20 years continuously,” Ngan said. “I’ve played pop songs, including Cantonese, Mandarin and English songs, as well as trying out Christian songs. We’ve performed outside Hong Kong, in Shenzhen and Qingyuan, and we’ve been received quite warmly by fans.”
“I started playing drums in Primary Six, and I taught African drums outside school, before finally forming the band,” added Chan.
Having performed together for eight years, the band members find it easy to synchronise with one another, and have even developed their own shorthand.
“In a band, the speed [at which] each member is playing varies; despite this, getting the instruments to become one and follow the rhythm is quite easy,” explained Ngan.
“I love it when we use our own method to discreetly communicate with each other with slight nods or movements, but the audience have no clue – it’s a kind of secret bond we’ve developed over the years,” said Yung.
The Omega trio want others to follow in their footsteps. After all, pointed out Yung, inspiration is everywhere.
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“You can start by basing your music off your favourite artist’s music”, as the style will already be familiar, he said.
But, added Ngan, playing in front of diverse crowds means it’s also important to your broaden your musical taste and think about what audiences want to hear.
Omega’s story ties in closely with that of ADAHK. The organisation started with an idea and a passion, but it’s taken a lot more than that to get it up and running.
“At the start of the set-up, our name wasn’t out there, so it was hard to attract resources, and manpower,” explained Myra Tam, Executive Director of ADAHK. “But [after] around 15 or 20 years, our name was more widely recognised.” This, she said, enabled the group to organise more events and “help people to understand what ADAHK is doing”.
“The next step,” she added, “is to form more collaborations and partnerships with other organisations to inspire our artists. Maybe that painting you saw could inspire you to play your music in a different way!”