|Naamyam: Old Hong Kong Identity Seeking Survival|
|Written by Wu Yue|
|Tuesday, 09 December 2008|
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Fifty years ago, the traditional narrative art of naamyam was the most popular form of entertainment in Hong Kong. Today, there are fewer than ten naamyam singers still performing.
In Rouge, a 1988 Hong Kong movie directed by Stanley Kwan, Leslie Cheung (playing a rich playboy) meets Anita Mui (playing a sing-song girl) in a brothel where Mui is singing the Song of the Exile, regarded as the most popular naamyam song in Hong Kong. They fall in love at first sight.
Twenty years later, on October 30, 2008, the same music was performed in Loke Yew Hall, the oldest building at the University of Hong Kong. Naamyam Master Au Kwan-cheung, pictured above in the pink gown, sang his favorite song at the request of members of the audience. Many were determined to hear this classic performed at the first and perhaps the only naamyam concert this year in Hong Kong.
Tang Wai-Oi came to the concert with two friends she made at a weekly Cantonese Opera theory class held at the Ko-shan Theatre in Kowloon. The theatre is sponsored by the government to promote traditional Hong Kong arts.
"We don't have many concerts like this in Hong Kong but if there's a concert, we will definitely go there. We love naamyam but we don't have many opportunities to listen to it. So today is really special. People who are interested in Cantonese opera all know about naamyam. Young people don't know much about it. They only know one or two naamyam pieces from TV shows," she said.
There were some younger faces in the audience. Among them was a foreigner: Scott - he declined to reveal his surname - a postgraduate student in anthropology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was new to naamyam music, but he already had developed an interest in the traditional art.
Click to hear what Scott has to say:
Listen to Au Kwan-Cheung, 63, performing:
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