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Young buskers take centre stage

The busking contest recently organised by concluded on a high note with a spectacular finale concert and the announcement of three outstanding winners. Importantly too, the spirit of the contest looks set to live on by inspiring more young people to take up their musical instrument and further the culture of busking in and around Hong Kong.

Intended for students at local universities and tertiary-level institutes, the “ Busking” competition was a chance for aspiring performers to express themselves and showcase their particular talents on stage. It was an opportunity for “daring to dream, daring to imagine and daring to pursue” something different by giving solo singers and groups a platform where they could interact with the audience and get a feel for the spotlight. 

After a series of preliminary rounds, the ten finalists battled it out at a special concert held at The Space@D2 Place ONE in the presence of four experienced judges. After an evening of high-quality performances, the three winners were Michelle Chow of City University of Hong Kong; Jason Wong of the University of Hong Kong and Gordon Ho of Lingnan University. Chow also took the title of “Most Popular Contestant” voted for by the live online audience.

Vibrant venue

On the night, contestants made sure to arrive early to rehearse and check their setups. A real sense of excitement quickly built, with well-known guest performers including Wilson Wu, Red House and Dear Jane also on hand to play a few numbers and add to the fun.  

As the evening’s headliner, singer-songwriter Wu also took time to encourage the contestants with some words of advice and wisdom. He said the stage was a place for everyone, but that sometimes it was necessary for musicians to show persistence in chasing their dreams and to have the resilience to bounce back if they wanted to reach their goals. In general, he was very impressed by the energy and enthusiasm surrounding the contest and the hard work the students put into writing and sing their own songs.

Half-way through, five-piece group Red House gave an electrifying performance with their distinctive style and vocal arrangements. The lead vocalist, Keith, also described the emotional path that those who start out as buskers must be ready to take.

“The first bold step towards a stage that truly belongs to you is the most important one,” he said. “Don’t be shy; the busking culture is all about standing in front of your audience. The closer you get, the more power you have to perform.” 

The third guest performers, Dear Jane, went on stage prior to the results announcement and played some more relaxing tunes. The group also recalled their early day as buskers performing in Mong Kok and Causeway Bay.




Champion: I want to be a singer

Contest winner Michelle Chow admitted to real surprise at taking home two awards. She was, though, understandably ecstatic and put her success down to the song Pisces, which she performed. As the first finalist to take the stage, she had been very nervous and even felt she had not quite reached her usual standard in terms of vocal phrasing and tone. However, her song’s light-hearted melody and the honesty of her performance captivated everyone.  

In fact, Chow wrote the song when still in Form 3 and, of course, she never expected it would lead to such unexpected recognition years later.

“I was obsessed with horoscopes when I was younger,” she said. “As a Pisces, I wanted to understand more about myself and find out which signs would make ideal friends. That was why I wrote the song. I took part in the contest because I think busking is all about interacting with the audience and performing my own song was the best way to express my inner self.”

Chow added that she will now seriously consider becoming a full-time singer after graduation.

First runner-up: prize money for new instruments

The first runner-up was Jason Wong, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student of the University of Hong Kong. Unlike other contestants, his performance was purely instrumental, featuring three different instruments, and that certainly allowed him to stand out.

“The original idea was to sing, but after practising for a while, I thought an instrumental presentation of the melody could be quite refreshing for the audience,” he said. “Therefore, I changed direction for this contest and practised intensively for two weeks. That helped me succeed.”

Wong already has clear ideas about how to spend his prize money. “I will buy some new instruments,” he sait, noting that a job search his next priority and that music will probably remain a spare-time interest.  

Second runner-up hopes to be a full-time musician

The second runner-up prize went to Gordon Ho, a third-year history major at Lingnan University, who was delighted with the event and the recognition it brought, but not quite sure how to celebrate. He hopes to devote himself to music full time after graduating, but is aware it won’t be an easy path.  

“I find busking is a very immersive experience,” he said. “The moment you stand in front of your audience, you are interacting with them and not merely singing.”