Text: Vicky Fung
It has been a while since I first met DJ Colin. More often than not, I am interviewed on his radio programs, talking about the songs I wrote for myself and other artists, or about the local music scene. So anything related to Cantopop reminds me of Colin. Besides the interviews, we occasionally meet up at mutual friends’ gatherings, chatting about everything under the sun over a drink. As always we instantly clicked as soon as the interview started, only this time the roles were reversed. As an amateur host, I asked Colin if he could give me some tips, but since he was seldom interviewed, he was rather nervous. In the beginning of the interview, I chose Auchentoshan 18-year-old because I think Colin's down-to-earth and approachable personality is similar to that of this whisky. The Auchentoshan distillery is located in the Lowlands of Scotland and so has the benefits of mild weather, it is relatively light in flavour and body, hence easy to drink, with an unexpected complexity.
Colin recalled joining the Commercial Radio Hong Kong (CRHK) through Wong Chi-chung, his university professor ten years ago. Although he did not have an official position at first, he helped out by buying breakfast and running errands for the hosts of the morning program On a Clear Day. Later on, he had the opportunity to produce segments and demos for other programs, and got his own show about ten months later. Hearing directly from him about how he entered the industry makes me feel the intense enthusiasm for work that this young DJ has.
Colin frankly spoke about how he needed to find his own edge in CRHK, and so he chose Cantonese pop music. It turned out that his program Canto Pop which began airing in October 2013 was inspired by the accusation that Hong Kong lyricists were ‘illiterate’. He suspected that the society might be jaded with the recurring discussions of “local music is dead”, and instead focused their criticism towards lyricists. Since it is a never ending argument, Colin makes use of the extensive back catalog of Cantopop, mixing both old and new songs in his program, hoping to bridge the divide between music fans from different generations. Just like that, Canto Pop has been broadcast for more than seven years. In the past two years, Colin felt that he was on a mission by hosting a program on Cantopop, as there are many things that people don’t want to, or can’t talk about. It is like a wound, and with the healing ability that only a well-thought out playlist can minister, the music provides a way to release their collective emotions and get through the tough days.
Last year, when the world seemed to come to a standstill, when the city was overwhelmed by doubt, sadness, and despair, on June 30, 2020 Colin began the project Canto Popcorn 365 days. Adopting the idea of ‘on this day’, to highlight moments from Cantopop history on that particular day, in the hopes that reviewing the past can help us look towards a brighter future, no matter how tough today seems. With Canto Popcorn 365 days ending in a month, Colin is busy preparing for the book and exhibition of the project. He regards it as his personal mission and hopes that he can contribute more to Cantopop music in this city.
Despite Colin's work echoing through the city every day, he considers himself ‘very anti-social’. Apart from work, what he yearns for most is to steer away from the city to go camping, cycling, hiking, and traveling. As he sighed about how much he misses camping and shopping in Japan, I poured him a glass of Yamasaki Distiller's Reserve, so as to quench his thirst for Japan. Yamazaki, located between Osaka and Kyoto, is the first distillery in Japan. The clear mountain springs in Yamazaki Valley were rated as one of Japan's 100 Best by the Ministry of the Environment. The unique environment is the key to nurturing Yamazaki single malt whisky. The barrels used to make Japanese whisky are derived from Mizunara, the unique Japanese Oak, which releases the scent of agarwood and sandalwood after aging.
Starting with some weighty content, we skipped through the past and future of Cantopop while enjoying the mellow and delicate fragrance of different whiskies, and now we have come to the end of the conversation. Let’s raise a toast to Colin and wish him a smooth and successful exhibition of Canto Popcorn 365 days.
May there always be a Cantopop tomorrow. Vive la Canto Pop.