Welcome to your new Louder Than War column entitled Sheriff of Hong Kong where I, Sean Hocking, keep you posted about the comings and goings of the music scene in Hong Kong, Macau and Southern China.
December is a good time to start our little missive as it is the highlight of the alternative musical year in this fair city. The Clockenflap Music & Arts Festival, takes place in West Kowloon overlooking the Fragrant Harbour , that’s the direct English translation of Hong Kong for those of you who like a juicy factoid .
Ok, it’s a given that it is a pretty awful name for a music festival sounding more like a Swiss chocolate gift than one of Asia’s largest music events , but that said, the organizers must be given credit for building the festival to the size it currently is.
They expect an attendance of over 35,000 in 2014, whereas only a few years back they’d have been lucky to get more than a couple of thousand people interested. That combined with a Chinese love of bureaucracy , authority and a general desire to discourage western style events for the masses we count ourselves lucky that an event like this can actually happen at all.
A couple of years back the organizers were thrown a curveball at the last moment by the local authorities and had to quietly stage the festival in a converted warehouse for the afficiandos but the festival rose like a phoenix from the ashes in 2012 with appearances from the likes of Primal Scream, The Klaxons and De La Soul amongst others. This year we’ve got Franz Ferdinand, Two Door Cinema Club, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and even Four Tet on the bill
Regional performers are a little thin on the ground unfortunately . There are some local Hong Kong dj crews and the odd singer but it does seem odd given the size of the festival that they aren’t concentrating more on underground acts from around the region. I’d suggest the likes of Nicholas Chim and the Obedient Wives Club from Singapore, Dub Addiction and Krom from Cambodia, Death To Ponies and Pairs from Shanghai and Lanzhou-based Low Wormwood who have just released their second album to great acclaim and a number of plays on the BBC already.
Credit where credit is due though some of Hong Kong’s indie newbies have made the early afternoon slots on Sunday. We’d recommend Ponyboy and electronic producer Ariel. Unfortunately Ariel’s Facebook seems to have disappeared into the ether so there’s no where to guide you to listen to his music.
Currently Clockenflap is Hong Kong’s only music festival but there are a number of others around the region for those of you who feel you’d like a musical holiday in Asia sometime.
The biggest and most established festival is Japan’s Fuji Rock with all the big players involved. This past year they hosted My Bloody Valentine, The Cure, Vampire Weekend, Nine Inch Nails amongst others.
The festival that appeals most to our aesthetic is Melbourne’s Laneway Festival now exported to Singapore. For those of you who haven’t yet come across Laneways the best UK comparison would be Brighton’s Great Escape. Held on Sat 25 January 2014 the festival will host Chvrches, the omnipresent Jaguar Ma, James Blake, Mount Kimbie, Savages and many more. Finally, quite possibly my least favourite music festival is Malaysia’s Future Music Festival. Link through and find out why.
In my next column I’ll try to do a little more to alert you to what’s new in Hong Kong…and if you are looking to purchase vinyl or CD’s from Asia’s music underground please take a look at The Saffron Record store in Central Hong Kong. It specializes in locating the best new releases of the Asian underground.
All words by the Sheriff of Hong Kong, Sean Hocking. You can read more from Sean on LTW here.
Image by Herry Lawford on Flickr.