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Living in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Music: Opera to Cantopop

The Hong Kong music scene is typically a mixture of both traditional and popular modern genres. While pop and classical music from abroad is popular in Hong Kong as well, the city has developed its own distinct genres which tend to preside over cultural life.

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The traditional form of Hong Kong music is Cantonese opera. Although there has been a dramatic decline in the performances of Cantonese opera, it is still very popular among the local population, and the government has increased efforts to revitalize this great tradition. It is enjoyed as much as Western classical music.

Since the 1970s, however, the Hong Kong music sector has been more or less dominated by one single phenomenon: Cantopop. The pop stars of this particular Hong Kong music genre are the most sought-after celebrities in the city.

Hong Kong Music: Cantopop

Cantopop is short for Cantonese pop. Originally a hybrid of western pop music and Cantonese opera, it now simply refers to pop songs sung in the Cantonese language. Love ballads are among the most popular songs, favored in Hong Kong music just as in the rest of the world.

If you would like to get the real Cantopop experience, there are regular concerts by the most admired Cantopop stars in the Hong Kong music scene. Alternatively, you can start by listening to some Cantopop online first. Sites such as MOOV have a large selection of Cantopop, although you will have to pay for actually downloading songs.

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Hong Kong Music: Cantonese Opera

If you want to experience the more traditional side of Hong Kong music, try to see a Cantonese opera performance while you are in the city. With roots going back to the third century, Cantonese opera is a lot older than its European equivalent.

This genre of Hong Kong music is a subcategory of Chinese opera, a traditional form of Chinese art, which includes music and singing as well as acting, dance, martial arts, and some forms of acrobatics. Most of the plots are based on Chinese history, myths and legends.

As performances of Cantonese opera in Hong Kong are immensely popular, make sure to get tickets well in advance. The Sunbeam Theater and the Ko Shan Theater have regular performances. Unfortunately, tickets for their shows are extremely difficult to come by if you do not speak Cantonese.

For other opportunities to witness a show, check out the database of cultural events in Hong Kong provided by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. There are a number of Cantonese Opera performances at the annual Hong Kong Arts Festival as well.

Hong Kong Music: Classical

Even though Western classical music is not native to the city, it still has its fair share in the Hong Kong music scene. There are regular classical music concerts throughout the city, and most are very reasonably priced.  

The Hong Kong Composers Guild has news on concerts and other events dedicated to classical music in Hong Kong. Furthermore, Radio 4, an English-language radio station by the Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK, is the only classical music radio station in the entire region.

Hong Kong Music: Orchestras and Choirs

The Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra is the city’s most renowned orchestra, with over 80 musicians from a number of different countries. The orchestra usually gives over 100 concerts per season in different concert venues throughout Hong Kong.

Other well-known orchestras include:

If you prefer choir music, a number of choirs in Hong Kong also give regular concerts:

Updated on: December 06, 2018
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