Cantopop, a beloved music genre in Hong Kong

Local pop music genre that thrived a few years ago​

If you are curious about what popular music in Hong Kong might be, look no more! Besides the international artists flooding the radio everywhere, the unique city has its own pop music.

Cantopop is an integral part of Hong Kong’s cultural identity. It all started in the mid-1970s when Sam Hui Koon-kit began singing pop in Cantonese. It’s claimed that the original Cantopop stars came out of Shanghai, where Western and Chinese musical influences were first mixed. Before fleeing China when Mao’s Communists seized power in the 1950s. While immigrants from Shanghai certainly influenced the forming of the genre, it wasn’t until the 1970s in Hong Kong that the current genre really took shape.

The ’70s saw a number of dedicated Hong Kong record labels emerge who pushed Hong Kong bands singing Cantonese covers of English language songs from the UK and US. It was a time when most people were still playing pop music in English. Hui’s songs were like a fresh breeze that stirred the souls of many Hongkongers whose mother tongue was Cantonese. This coincided with Hong Kong’s growing economic prosperity and rising public demand for leisure and entertainment.

The rise of this music led to the launch of annual music awards shows in the 80s. TVB, Commercial Radio and public broadcaster RTHK each produced its own year-end shows, joined later by Metro Radio. These shows have played a vital role in promoting not only the music industry but also the melodies and sentiments that Hong Kong people identify with.

Why is it such a beloved genre?

Cantopop brought Hongkongers together. During the heyday of the local music industry in the 1980s and 90s, watching live broadcasts of the year-end awards shows was a must. Those were the only occasions when not just fans but also general TV viewers had the chance to experience the live performances of the biggest and brightest stars, from the comfort of their homes.

The names of a few stars from the genre. Jacky Cheung, Andy Lau, Aaron Kwok and Leon Lai, aka the Four Heavenly Kings, are Cantopop’s answer to New Kids on the Block or Take That. While Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui are arguably the genre’s legendary crooners. In recent years, Edison Chen, Gillian Chung and Charlene Choi (The Twins) and Janice Vidal have taken centre stage and also courted controversy with a series of scandals.

Concert tours

Where can you listen to this music genre? Cantopop is most popular in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Korea. And also to a lesser extent in Japan. Cantopop stars also make world tours, making stops in cities with big Chinese communities. For example L.A, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, and London.

In Hong Kong, concerts by local stars take place almost continually. Look for local listings. There is also a lot of these artists to discover browsing internet!