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Green Music

The ability to use renewable energy to generate outstanding acoustics for any events is what SolarSoundSystem Hong Kong aims to share throughout the city, one green event at a time.

“We’re not doing an expat project for expats living in Hong Kong. The aim is to reach out to the entire population, regardless of age as well,” says Aymeric Vollant, co-founder of SolarSoundSystem Hong Kong. “One point is to show to people that we need to consume energy in order to create energy.”

With the first model established in 1999, SolarSoundSystem Hong Kong is part of the SolarSoundSystem network that is also present in six other international cities. Hong Kong is the only Asian city, and the rest are mostly based in Europe.

Simply put, their portable sound systems consist of a solar panel and of turntables for DJs to play their electronic music. The system is powered either by solar energy or by the kinetic energy generated from a stationary bike.

Born and raised in Nantes, France, Vollant moved to Shanghai seven years ago as part of his schooling in business followed by a stint in New York City. He returned to Shanghai and became fully immersed in the music and event scenes in the city. He had stayed there for three years until he met his girlfriend, a Hong Konger. He moved to Hong Kong with her four years ago.

“I’m passionate about music, I have been organising events for many years, but I did not know exactly where I wanted to go in the long term, what I wanted to dedicate my time to. I was looking for the cause I wanted to defend basically,” he says.

Vollant first came across the SolarSoundSystem concept online a few years ago. It was only in 2017 did his interest in renewable energy deepen.

According to him, there has been an eco-friendly movement — once rarely heard of — that is shifting towards a more mainstream avenue. And this has helped SolarSoundSystem Hong Kong to take on a growing number of projects happening in the city since its establishment in March 2018.

Yet the possibility of creating a sound system that promotes clean energy — both for indoor and outdoor events — almost didn’t make it.

To launch the project, Vollant says he and his co-founder, Chuck Wu from Hong Kong, had to invest from their own money along with the financial support from the team of SolarSoundSystem in France. Moreover, they received sponsorship from Schneider Electric Foundation to finally kick start their project.

But that was just one hurdle.

Another challenge is meeting the deadline while multi-tasking other projects like IRIS: Your Escape, of which he was part of the organising team, and meeting up with the team of SolarSoundSystem from France to iron out the kinks. The last day of IRIS was the same day that the team from France landed at the airport.

Vollant and Wu only had two weeks before the official launch. Still, despite this hectic transition, Vollant says it went smoothly.

For one, sourcing the materials — from the solar panels, to bikes, and to other equipment — was made easier thanks in part to Hong Kong’s strategic location and Wu’s knowledge of the market both in Hong Kong and in Greater China.

Since its inception, SolarSoundSystem Hong Kong has already made their presence known at seven notable events throughout the city with Sonar 2018 as their first major event, held at the Hong Kong Science Park. Electronic music was played until the wee hours of the morning with no complaints whatsoever.

SolarSoundSystem Hong Kong remains a non-profit concept where events are free or almost free to attend. But to make it viable and financially sustainable, the sound systems are being rented out to other event organisers.

“This can help organisers to add a message of sustainability to their event, to participate in reducing emissions because it does participate in reducing it. And it also adds a fun and interactive entertainment,” says Vollant.

He says electronic music is often played in places like Lan Kwai Fong where alcohol and bad connotations are attached to. When DJs use SolarSoundSystem at their events, electronic music can also be more cultural and family-friendly. For instance, kids love riding the energy-generating bikes while listening to the beats of various electronic musical instruments, digital instruments, and circuitry-based music.

“In a way, this is the point of the project. People see the system and wonder how it works, how efficient it is, how long it can run. It opens discussions about energy,” Vollant says.

Since launching SolarSoundSystem Hong Kong, Vollant seeks to further raise awareness of renewable energy like providing solar systems in areas that may often be seen off grid in the city, which brings about a new set of challenges like placements of solar panels and the limited time exposed to the sun.

Knowing about a certain market via research and meeting experts in this domain is paramount in making such a notable project successful, according to Vollant.

“The message is the most important. Any eco-responsible elements added to an event can have a great impact on raising awareness of sustainability. It is a great step, a really important step,” says Vollant.