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Hey yíall, Cantopop is alive!  The uniquely Hong Kong musical genre sashays into the 21st century with the flamboyant performances of Canto legends Grasshopper and Softhard.  Members of both groups came to the New York Asian Film Festival with director Yan Yan Mak to talk about The Great War, the behind-the-scenes documentary of their collaborative concert in Hong Kong.

Dig it!


The Great War

Grasshopper - Calvin Choy and Edmond So

Softhard - Eric Kot

Director Yan Yan Mak


The Lady Miz Diva:  How did the idea to turn Grasshopper and Softhardís big collaboration concert in Hong Kong into a documentary begin?

Eric Kot:  First of all, a long, long time ago, we decided we were going to have a show in the Hong Kong Coliseum, and my partner, Jan Lamb said we should do something, not just making a concert, or a ďMaking ofĒ DVD.  Why donít we invite our friend, director Mak Yan Yan to try directing our ďMaking ofĒ cos we are super under budget and she got passion!  My darling Jan Lamb, met Mak Yan Yan face to face and briefed her and she said yes. 

Calvin Choy:  There was only one condition, make us handsome.

EK:  There was another one.  No budget!


LMD:  Director Mak, what was it like for you to be included in the day to day of the groupsí creative process?

Yan Yan Mak:  Wow, thatís a very complicated question, actually.  Right from the beginning, I always treated it as a job, even though it was a low-budget thing.  Then I started to become one of the team.  When I found a way to do it, I treated it as my thing and the feeling was very different from the beginning part to the middle part to the editing stage.


LMD:  As huge stars, you are used to having cameras on you, but what was it like to have them around 24/7 capturing everything?

CC:  It was like no more camera.  Just let go.  It was always on.

YYM:  No, actually they were really easy backstage and on their personal time.  From the first stage, they equated a lot to the cameras and then later on they really got used to it, and then they didnít notice the cameras beside them.


LMD:  How many hours of film did you shoot?

YYM:  Over four hundred hours of footage.  The concert was at the end of October and I joined in early September so you can count. And especially itís five people, not just one artist in the backstage, so itís everything times five.


LMD:  How did you balance how much to shoot of any one person?

YYM:  I didnít make any adjustment at the time; Iíd just shoot whatever I think I should include in the footage.

EK:  The slogan is ďDonít think, just shoot.Ē

YYM:  Not in the bad way.  I didnít count how many hours, but I asked my camera crew what I really needed.  Donít miss anything.


LMD:  Was there anything that you saw in the documentary that surprised you?

Edmond So:  Itís all the hard work and the preparation.  Also, apart from that is the rapport of all of us and then not just the rapport of us all, because you also then see the audience and from the audience you see that amazing spirit of Hong Kong and the love of Hong Kong, and that, you really, really notice and that is very, very moving. 

EK:  Also one thing is, we are concentrating so much on our performance onstage, or the preparation before we go onstage, or under the stage, or backstage; we are all focused on our own selves.  We never check out what heís doing over there, or what Iím doing this at this moment while they are doing this part or worrying about that part.  I never imagined we could see that before.


LMD:  What it is that brought these two groups together?

EK:  Money! {Laughs} Friendship!


LMD:  We might have some readers who are unfamiliar with Cantopop.  Would you please give us an idea of what it is and why it means so much to Hong Kong?

EK:  Iím stopping and thinking what is Cantopop, too.  Iím checking your website.

CC:  I think Hong Kong is a crossing cultures city.  We feel that music is that way.  We see all the world through music, so we studied and do things in a fusion style.

ES:  Of all the worldís musical influences, Hong Kong can actually access and absorb.  From there, you have a point in which a lot of the stuff is concentrated.  Then from there it is expressed in Cantonese, which is very Hong Kong, also in Mandarin, which reaches out to many Asians, many people at one time, so that is very unique about it.  It started off with a lot of covers and then from the covers, we started to do original music.  The Chinese and the Western influence with just the idea of East and West in Hong Kong fuses much better and also the exposure to the West in Hong Kong is something that Taiwan or even China simply canít compare.

EK:  We copy and enhance.


LMD:  2013 marks two big anniversaries in Cantopop for the 10 years since both Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui passed away.  We know they were legends in Hong Kong music, but I understand Ms. Mui had a lot to do with Grasshopper. Can you please talk about her influence on you?

ES:  Sheís been gone for 10 years, but the thing is, there is so much of her that is still in us, that is all around us. Sometimes, especially when we go on stage - the style, the presentation, all of that it, is really an entire heritage that is from her.  From there, we just feel that is her presence.

EK:  Thatís why before we go on stage; we have a little prayer or mantra and say, ďAnita, be with us.Ē


LMD:  What is the place of Cantopop in todayís world?

ES:  That is serious.  Think of it this way, the recording industry has certainly devolved.  So itís a completely different system.  Before, you would make recordings and thatís how the economy worked.  But now, itís more to do with live performances, really, itís the way to reach out.  Because if people want the recorded sound, they can just go on the computer and you can download anything.  But even if you buy a DVD of a live concert, itís still a matter of the live experience.  If you go see a live performance, that experience is something that is totally different.  Even the way that you have the live performance; you have to know what the audience might be looking for and what you have to offer to the audience.  There has to be this instant reaction, response, and all of that has to be just right there in the moment.

CC:  Therefore, every performance, every show that we put together, there will always be more surprises because thatís what makes us exciting.

EK:  This is the mantra, ďBe with us Anita Mui, and also with Grasshopper.Ē

CC:  The thing is, you know that clearly a lot of Cantopop singers, because of the market in China, sing in Mandarin; but just FYI, Grasshopper will be defending Cantonese always.

EK:  Forever Chinatown!!


~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 2nd, 2013



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