Busking

On a saturday night, it is easy to find street performers taking different parts of Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok. Some playing music. Some dancing in funny and colorful costumes. And some acting skits.

Ken Fung (right) has been busking in Mong Kok since 2003.

“Now Sai Yeung Choi Street South is to a certain extent the most tolerant street towards busking. Performers, political parties, the church… Everyone can do events and sharing here.” Fung said. “We were among the first to perform here, and we witnessed it transform into this street of cultural arts – basically there won’t be anyone stopping you from performing.”

Fung now regularly performs a little skit/freezing act called Show You Some Colors, where he freezes his motion and ask passers-by to paint on him. The skit originated from netizens’ complaints about his act being too aggressive and bold, saying that he was trying to sexually harass females.

“Show You Some Colors turns a performer-initiated performance to a audience-initiated one. The passers-by are very interested because they get to paint on me,” said Fung. “And I love it because Show You Some Colors is not merely a show, but where a performer can interact and share some things with the audience.”

WingLo, a producer and singer-songwriter, can also be seen performing in Sai Yeung Choi Street South. “I usually sing on friday and saturday nights,” WingLo said. “It was hard overcoming the looks you get from people at first.

“But now I’ve sold more than 5,000 copies of my album and have a regular and supportive fans base,” said WingLo. “I think it’s all worth it.”

Apart from regularly performing last year, Fung also found out a unexpected perk of busking to the community. The old woman selling traditional Chinese candies downstairs took a personal affection for them and helped them save space for their performance. The local diners recognized Fung and gave him a free soy milk when he went there for lunch. The cable internet sales in the area have become friends with Fung.

“This to me is really the difference between theatrical and street performance,” said Fung. “You are connecting with the community.”

Busking, despite its success in Sai Yeung Choi Street South, is still only confined in that area. “I want to take my performance to the different places in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, and the New Territories – all 18 districts,” said Fung. “Perhaps I’ll start with places I know well, like where I live and where I used to go to school.”

WingLo, whose street performances have gotten him recognition, will be releasing an album this year. “Busking can be like this platform where talented musicians start out and slowly work their way through people,” WingLo said. “It could lead to success, but I guess that’ll depend on how my album goes.”

With more and more street performers in the past year, busking has been gaining momentum. In Hong Kong where there are narrow streets and an inquisitive bunch of audience, busking has the potential to develop into a unique local culture. “I am optimistic about busking’s development,” said Fung. “But experience tells me that culture and arts development doesn’t happen in one or two years.

“You have to keep doing year after year and eventually more people will be aware of what you’re doing,” said Fung. “It creates an atmosphere where people recognize this group of people who performs here, and with more understanding and interaction, acceptance and tolerance will follow.”


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