02 July 2010

Peace or Poetry?


The Hi-Tech Village is a place where almost everyone can have the chance to feel like a foreigner, or not. For me, feeling like a foreigner is pretty easy, and most of the city will do the trick. But like a big American city, and unlike most big Asian cities, the Village provides opportunities for the locals to step out of their comfort zones as well. In this way, HK is a New World city on the edge of the Old World.

While there’s nothing quite on the level of a Eurotown or Indiatown to compare with San Francisco’s Chinatown or other ethnic enclaves in the States, the Village has the Chungking Mansions, Discovery Bay (sorta feels like a tropical Scandinavia out there, except for all the Filipinas shepherdesses tending to the herds of blond kids) and it has Lamma (among other locations that I hope to educated on in the comments).

But the mixing of cultures has a different quality here on the edge of the Old World, compared to what I'm used to in my nation of immigrants. On the one hand, I see much less tension between ethnic groups in HK compared to the USA. On the other hand, the melting pot doesn’t seem to melt in the same way here that it does in NYC, LA or San Francisco: there doesn’t seem to be as much fusion culture being generated here.

Hip hop is the current pinnacle of American cultural fusion: there are literally no rules about what musical genres can be blended into a hip hop song, and it borrows from everywhere. What does HK have? Cantopop? I guess Cantopop has some Western influences, but the emotion of this music is so foreign to me that I literally can't understand the appeal of it, and I've yet to meet a single non-Chinese person who can stand the stuff. Not so with American music. Starting with jazz, and moving on to blues, rock 'n roll, and hip hop, American music has appealed to people from different cultures because American music has been a blend of different cultural traditions from the beginning.

I recently visited a restaurant in Knutsford Terrace that marketed itself as a "fusion" restaurant. They had Indian and Malaysian food on their menu. But the menu was completely segregated. Indian on one page, Malaysian on the other. There wasn't a single dish that was a unique, creative combination of the two cuisines. Where I come from, that's the opposite of fusion.

I've always been cynical about this vision of NYC as a melting pot, given the ethnic segregation and tension. But maybe that tension isn't such a bad thing. Creating new iterations of an old art form, sticking within your cultural comfort zone, is easy, but that "creative" process is unlikely to appeal to people from outside that cultural tradition. When cultures clash, the result isn't always pretty, but sometimes it's beautiful.

So how bout it Villagers? Where do I go to see HK fusion culture (besides the Pub, of course)? I know it must be lurking somewhere. Maybe I'm too stuck in my comfort zone to find it. Once again, the gweilo needs your help.

4 comments:

  1. I am not sure if this counts as "fusion food", but most of the local Cha Chaan Tengs (茶餐廳) have a bizzare selection of what they call "Western Dishes" that don't look and taste Western at all.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cha_chaan_teng

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  2. Apart from Canto Pop, Hong Kong has Cantonese Hip Hop (LMF, MC Jin) and a small, but active punk and hardcore scene (King Ly Chee etc).

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  3. Is Cantonese Hip Hop a new artform, or just hip hop in Cantonese? There is German hip hop, French hip hop, Spanish hip hop, etc. I wouldn't say the Germans, French or Spanish are inventing new art forms just by switching the language. Same goes for punk and hardcore: those are not new art forms created in HK. (I mentioned Cantopop because I think it is, to some extent, a uniquely HK musical genre.)

    As for fusion food, I'll check out Cha Chaan Teng. Maybe I should be clearer about what I mean by fusion though. Fusion, to me, a mixing of two or more different cultural traditions in a way that it might appeal to people who don't come from either of the original traditions.

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  4. Wesley,

    Those are probably not new art forms. They just switch the language. Aside from Cantopop, Jan Lam's music might be considered fusion music because his music is a mixture of Hip-Hop and Cantopop.

    I think sebhk is right. Some of the dishes served in Hong Kong style resturants are fusion food. And some of the restaurants in HK serve what may be called in Cantonese "Soy Sauce Western Dishes" which are more like HK Style Western food, but I tend of think of them as unique dishes in HK. Some of the famous Vietnamese restaurants are actually fusion restaurants. There are a lot of other fusion restaurants in HK such as the Singaporean ones and the Japanese ones.

    I'm not a fan of fusion food, especially Japanese food, but there are some good ones in HK. And I think it's a bit hard to define "appeal". It just depends on the person.

    W

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