01 November, 2011

PitchYrCulture Mix #1 – Before-it-all


As people buzzed around Culture Club in Central (September 16th, 2011) it was easy to tell that the first PitchYrCulture event had gathered a mix of ages and races, all intrigued to see what the evening would be like. There was a comfortable hum of chatting, the sipping of beer and the scent of popcorn popping.


But before I get into how great the event was, let me tell you what it is. Organised by musical artists and artistic musicians (why differentiate?), PitchYrCulture launched a series of public-presentation forums, each dedicated to the exploration and explanation of recorded music in all its varieties. Events are themed and accept about 5-7 guest presenters. And here’s the hook – while each presentation delves into the song’s history, cultural impact, and artistic ambitions and/ or the presenter’s personal anecdotes or aimless digressions – the presentation must be the same length as the chosen song. And that’s not easy.

The first event was themed Before-it-all: Do you remember the first song that made an impression on you or meant something to you, when you were really young, before you started to care what other people liked, what other people thought of you, before you needed to be cool or fit in, before you cared what was ‘in’?

While we filed in and out, bought drinks and chatted, an audience member offered to sing us a song. Hailing from the Mainland, this Chinese student sung us a rendition of a traditional song, in Mandarin. With that under-way, it was time to get things moving, with MC (and founder) Andrew Guthrie. And what better way to start than with the Batman TV Theme song? Remember that jazz number? Guthrie does. Not only did it relax the mood and iron out any technical glitches, the theme song flowed nicely onto Clara Cheung’s presentation. Cheung (co-director of the innovative exhibition space, C&G Artpartment) picked an old favourite TV theme of her own. If we had asked for more perfect examples of East and West, we couldn’t have asked for better. Magical Angel Creamy Mami (我係小忌廉) had all the optimism, complete with synth sounds required to throw you into the nostalgia of 1980s Hong Kong TV (read: Japanese anime).

Keeping nostalgia alive – as was the point – we moved onto Anita Mui’s classic, Star, presented passionately and lovingly in impressive Cantonese and English by Singaporean, Arthur Wong. For those that hadn’t grown up in Hong Kong, or were uneducated about Cantopop, they were about to meet a legend.

Oliver Holtaway, musician and DJ, flew into Hong Kong specifically for the event. He neatly pushed us into the early 90s with Sesame's Treet by the Smart Es – delivering us into the heart of rave culture, posing the question: Did this song kill rave? His speedy, matter-of-fact presentation skills raced us through the political setting (Thatcher) and the history of how we worried about the youth in the UK during all those raves, in a manner that reminded me of a Tim-from-Spaced speech. Holtaway delivered his presentation within seconds of the song time – and was the only one to do so.


Alice Chik, Assistant Professor in the Department of English at City U (and co-author of the yet-unpublished English Pop, Hong Kong Style) took us further back in time with some rather amusing personal anecdotes and an apt reminder of how song can be used to teach English. Just how much is that _ _ _ _ _ in the window?

Mike Middleton, a partner of the Songs for Children indie music promotion organisation was one of the first people to ask if he could join the event. Presenting a song that encapsulated his teen years and the coming-of-age of “Indie Mike”, he started fast when telling us about Comin' Through by the Pastels. But then, he got quite absorbed by what he was saying. At one point, I had a vision of Middleton in full kilt (he’s Scottish), giving a speech at his son’s wedding. If he’d wanted a longer song, I’d have suggested Rush, but his manner, enthusiasm and changing pace made his presentation perfect, amusing and endearing.


Bringing the show to a close, Yan Yan Pang of Hard Candy and Tyger Feb took us back to the ‘90s one last time, reminding us of Richie Manic Street Preacher’s disappearing act and – uh oh, we’re in trouble… Shampoo. Growing up in the UK, there was no escaping that one (and I have the pink 7” vinyl) so I was glad to hear the song made it to Hong Kong as well. Pang later said to me, “I did see your smile when I said it's Trouble, so you must be a fan as well! I really enjoyed it, looking at my old CD collection again just makes me smile!”

Written with grateful thanks to Lennon at Culture Club.

For the full list of videos and songs:

Reviews of other PyC events:

For more about PitchYrCulture:
- Blog

© 2011-2012 Vickie Chan

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