Music, Performance and Politics: Tatming and the postcolonial ruins of Hong Kong

Music, Performance and Politics: Tatming and the postcolonial ruins of Hong Kong

A colloquium by

Jeroen de Kloet, Yiu Fai Chow, and Leonie Schmidt

Thursday 13 December 2018 at 15:30
In room 3.01 at Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16


In this colloquium De Kloet, Chow, and Schmidt will engage with two rounds of performances by the Hong Kong band Tatming. The Hong Kong pop duo Tatming Pair started in 1986 and has since built a reputation with their engaged lyrics, extravagant aesthetics, and electronic sounds. In 2012 Tatming Pair, vented in a series of concerts, their worries, frustrations and anger over the future of the city, giving voice to a deafening sense of disquiet. In the first part of our presentation, we will analyse this performance as a foreboding of the upcoming political protests, since in September 2014 thousands of people started occupying different areas of Hong Kong, demanding ‘true democracy’, ushering in what was known as the ‘Umbrella Movement.’ This attests, we argue, to the close alliance between the cultural and the political. It shows how popular music, in word, sound and image, both reflects, as well as impacts on, the city of Hong Kong.

In 2017 Tatming staged a round of three reunion concerts in the Hong Kong Coliseum. Building on a discourse analysis of the reports that have emerged in different media platforms before, during, and after the concerts, the second part of our presentation explores the production side of massive pop concerts. We do so also by way of conducting interviews with the band and their close collaborators, ultimately reflecting on the tension between political engagement and commercial entertainment. The 2017 concerts took the classic novel 1984 by George Orwell as the lynchpin. The performance was structured into three themes and sections: surveillance, brainwashing, and suppression. Using production ethnography as a method, we will investigate how on each level of the production makers and creative workers negotiate the tension between creating an appealing aesthetic spectacle on the one hand, while trying to convey a message on the other hand.

Jeroen de Kloet is professor of Globalisation Studies and Director of the Amsterdam Centre for Globalisation Studies (ACGS) at the University of Amsterdam. His work focuses on cultural globalisation, in particular in the context of East Asia. He is the principal investigator of a project funded by the European Grant Council (ERC), titled “From Made in China to Created in China. A Comparative Study of Creative Practice and Production in Contemporary China.

Yiu Fai Chow is associate professor, Department of Humanities and Creative Writing, at the Hong Kong Baptist University. Born in Hong Kong, Chow Yiu Fai received his PhD degree at the Amsterdam School of Communication Research, University of Amsterdam. Aside from his academic work, Chow is also an award-winning lyric writer. He released his first lyrics in 1989. Since then he has penned some 1,000 lyrical works for a diversity of pop artists in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China. Lately, Chow has been increasingly involved in prose writing, multi-media and visual art projects.

Leonie Schmidt is assistant professor in the Media Studies Department of the University of Amsterdam and Associate Researcher at SOAS, University of London. Currently, she is working on a Veni project, which explores how in Indonesia Islamic ‘counter-terror pop culture’ helps to limit Islamic radicalisation and terrorism.