Symposium On Underground Music-Making In Hong Kong And East Asia

10 Dec 2018
01:00pm - 07:00pm
ACO book store / ACO Art and Culture Outreach14/F, Foo Tak Building, 365-367 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Symposium On Underground Music-Making In Hong Kong And East Asia

Underground Music Making

Venue: ACO book store / ACO Art and Culture Outreach14/F, Foo Tak Building, 365-367 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong

Keynote Speaker: Professor Will Straw, James McGill Professor of Urban Media Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

This public symposium brings together artists, scholars and event organizers to share their insights on key underground music productions broadly defined (recordings and various other objects; events; visual documents, etc.) and/or to provide critical accounts of some of the most important underground music actors in Hong Kong. While the symposium aims to emphasize contributions dealing with Hong Kong specifically, case studies dealing with Taiwanese, Mainland Chinese, Japanese or other East Asian underground music practices either specifically or comparatively are also welcome.

In a 1996 article on the state of popular music practices in the contemporary Chinese context, Yinyue Zhimindi argues that: "Hong Kong and Taiwan only know how to produce stars and idols" (qtd. In Steen 13). This assessment provides an incomplete picture of the situation in Hong Kong. Since the beginning of the 90s, Cantopop (and Hong Kong’s music market share more generally) have been on the decline, and the landscape of music styles and practices in Hong Kong has been increasingly diverse and fragmented (Chow & de Kloet, 2013). The last dozen of years have also seen the emergence of independent and, more marginally, experimental music scenes in Hong Kong, Mainland China and Taiwan. More recently, the closing or relocalization of several music venues in Hong Kong has attracted media attention and made clear the difficulties faced by musical underground event organizers (Charrieras, Darchen, Sigler, 2018). 

For the purpose of the symposium, underground music is understood inclusively as an eclectic collection of commercially marginal styles and genres linked by “aesthetic sympathies of innovation and experiment” (Graham 151). While coverage on the development of underground music practices in Mainland China and Taiwan has been on the rise, scholarship and expert accounts about underground music activities in Hong-Kong lack visibility (particularly in English) in spite of its persistence since the early 1980’s.

  • Where do underground music practices take place in Hong Kong?
  • What are the economic constraints and allowances that Hong Kong underground musical actors (such as concert promoters, venue owners, artists, etc.) deal with in their day-to-day musical activities?
  • What element(s) make(s) Hong Kong underground music-making unique?
  • In what ways is the local Hong Kong underground music scene influenced by/differs from other similar scenes in Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan and Western Countries?
  • How to best define the world of Hong Kong underground music practices?


Dr. Nathanel Amar (The University of Hong Kong, Society of Fellows), Steve 'Nerve' Hui (Twenty Alpha/ Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts), Alexander Lau (Empty Gallery, Gallery Director), Fiona Lee (artist), Dr. Cedric Maridet (CityU/HKBU), Dr. Jose Vicente Neglia (The University of Hong Kong), Edward Sanderson李蔼德 PhD student at Hong Kong Baptist University), Kung Chi Shing (independent musician, Music Associate at West Kowloon Cultural District Authority), Prof. Will Straw (McGill University), Prof. Ken Ueno (City University of HK/ UC Berkeley), Dennis Wong (artist, event organizer, founder of ‘Noise to Signal’ series and co-founder of ‘Kill the Silence’ festival), Xsper.Xr (artist, founders/organizers at the Culture Industries Association), Alex Yiu aka ‘Alexmalism’ (Composer, DJ, sound artist, producer).

Opening individual talks - Nomadic noise experimentations. Reverse chronologies/chronotopes
Kung Chi Shing - Experimental music series 2017-2018 [1.00pm – 1.25pm]
Dennis Wong - Shadow dreaming. A decade of nomadic resistance [1.25pm – 1.50pm]
Dr. Cedric Maridet - Noises no one else can hear [1.50pm – 2.15pm]
Xsper.Xr - Notes on the Hong Kong underground. A belated 30th annual report [2.15pm – 2.40pm]

Break time [2.40pm-2.55pm]

Panel - Chinese and Japanese undergrounds [2.55pm-4.20pm]
Jose Vicente Neglia - The garage rock scene in Tokyo
Edward Sanderson – Spaces for Experimental Sound Practices in Beijing
Nathanel Amar - Early Chinese punk network and the quest for space

Break time [4.20pm-4.30pm]

Panel - Horizontal virtual/vertical concrete. Of some current spaces and communities of music making in Hong Kong [4.30pm-5.20pm]
Moderator: Prof. Ken Ueno
Steve 'Nerve' - Twenty Alpha at Wan Chai Foo Tak Building
Alexmalism (aka Alex Yiu) - An Overview of the Internet-based Underground Post-Genre Club Music and its Translocality: From a Hong Kong Local Perspective

Break time [5.20pm-5.30pm]

Keynote speaker [5.30pm-6.15pm]
Prof. Will Straw - Scenes and circulation

Roundtable discussion: 6.15pm-7.00pm with all the participants + Fiona Lee (sound artist) + Alexander Lau (Empty Gallery, Gallery Director)


Dr. Damien Charrieras - Associate Professor | School of Creative Media | City University of Hong Kong

François Mouillot, PhD - Research Assistant Professor | Department of Humanities and Creative Writing | Department of Music | Research Cluster in Creative Media and Practice | Hong Kong Baptist University

This symposium is supported by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, The School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, Art and Culture Outreach.

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