Cantopop legend Vicky Fung returns to the spotlight

vicky fung
Wilfred Chan, Still / Loud
“These days people say Cantopop is dead, and that hurts me a lot... We are in a new era, and we can’t judge it by the past.”

“I want people to remember that I’m an artist first,” says singer-songwriter Vicky Fung Wing-ki.

An influential figure in Cantopop, Fung has contributed to Hong Kong’s music industry over the past 20-odd years. But her preferred narrative of being an artist is sometimes muddled by the many projects and duties she has taken on.

From 2007 right up to its closure in 2015, Fung had been occupied with running the live music lounge and restaurant Backstage Live. She had also been cultivating her group of indie pop artists — Jing Wong 黃靖, Tang Siu-hau 鄧小巧, Michael Lai 黎曉陽, Nowhere Boys and per se — under the label she co-founded, Frenzi Music. On top of that, she created a crowdfunding platform to assist emerging artists.

If that were not enough, she remains busy — like she has since the start of her career in 1996 — writing hit after hit for Cantopop’s biggest names.

“I felt that this year, I should finally get back to do something for myself.”

Fung put out her last album 10 years ago, and her last show was back in 2011. But, on Thursday September 14, she return to the spotlight, after successfully crowdfunding her long-awaited solo concert, 繼續彳亍 Travelling Soul. It’s an important spiritual moment, for her to get back on stage after so long.

“I’ve gone through a lot of things, spiritually, psychologically and physically in the past 10 years,” she says.

The closing of Backstage Live took a toll on Fung. Starting from 2007, she was there day and night for a good eights years, propping it up as one of the few live venues that paid guest performers fairly, and offered open mic nights for a community of enthusiasts to perform.

“When it closed, a hole was left in my heart,” she says. A rent hike, both inevitable and egregious, drove her out of business. At the time, Fung was figuring out how to be a mother to a child with autism. Her son is now 11: she’s still learning, but feels that she’s getting a grip on things.

“Despite everything, I’ve realized that we are all just specks of dust in the grand scheme of the universe. When you have that awareness, you can just keep walking forward with a new sense of fearlessness. It’s this persistence that has inspired the name of my concert,” she says. “I’m not young anymore, so I know exactly what I want now, which is to keep on being creative, producing music, and conveying — this is going to sound cheesy — messages of love.”

Influences of this new age philosophy can be heard on her latest single, “Crystal’s Spirit”, which has a galactic, eerie and haunting sound, a first for Fung.

A few months after Backstage Live closed, Fung received a call asking if she would like to collaborate on a music venue at the Hopewell Centre in Wan Chai.

“It was like a miracle,” Fung says, about the birth of this new live music lounge that would become 1563 at the East. “I could curate and support the musicians I want to support and contribute to the industry without being responsible for administration.”

1563 at the East just celebrated its one-year anniversary, and its popularity is only increasing. It’s triple the size of the old Backstage Live, and Fung has utilized the space for a multitude of musical tastes, ranging from RnB and rock to jazz and Cantopop.

These fashions come and go, but in the end, Fung always returns home to Cantopop.

Ever since she decided to quit being a lawyer to pursue music, her journey has been intertwined with the growth of the genre. “I gave the law career a chance out of respect for my parents,” she says. “but then I realized that after four years, that wasn’t the path I wanted.”

I felt that this year, I should finally get back to do something for myself.

Just like that, Fung went from high-powered professional to being a personal assistant to friend and mentor, famed composer Chan Fai-young 陳輝陽. “I became quite good at taking food orders, and I learned a lot by observing the recording process and being around different artists.”

Since then Fung has written dozens of big hits, like Sammi Cheung’s “Can’t Let Go 放不低”, Joey Yung’s “Bothering You 麻煩你”, Kelly Chen’s “The Best Position 最佳位置”, Juno Mak’s Buddhism-related hit “Vastness of Water 弱水三千” and most recently Eason Chan’s “Who Will Cut Down The Moon 誰來剪月亮”.

“These days I hear people say that Cantopop is dead, and that hurts me a lot,” she says. “I don’t even know what that means because I know plenty of people working in the industry. We are in a new era, and we can’t judge it by the past.”

“The context has changed, and the industry has been dissected into more specific music styles than before, but the creativity is still there. And my artists and I are going to continue doing our part to contribute to it.”

Vicky Fung’s concert 繼續彳亍 Travelling Soul will be held at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) September 14. Still / Loud’s Holmes Chan contributed editing.