A man with a university student like gait, wearing a mask came through the door my work space. He obviously had a cold. It’s only when he lowered his mask that I realised it was NG Cheuk Yin.
Cheuk Yin for those who may not be knowing, is a renowned HK musician. He wears many hats: He is a music composer, producer, Sheng performer, and a cappella artist to limit ourselves to just a few. His music knows no frontiers between the East and the West, enriched by a variety of genres all together creating a new version of the very special Hong Kong culture.
We quickly settle down before he takes me flashbacking, if there is ever such word in English, into his background and childhood. Cheuk Yin is a HK born and raised musical prodigy, studying piano when he was 6Y old and the Sheng, a seemingly complicated and heavy old Chinese musical instrument, kind of a mouth organ, at the young age of 8. Right from a very early age, Cheuk Yin loved music and rhythm and participated in different orchestras.
Pic: Cheuk Yin performing Solo. With Sheng.
Coming from a typical Hong Kong family, his parents wanted their son to study business or law, easier to make a living from. Cheuk Yin made the last call and went to study Music at the CUHK following which he went on to study Japanese at the International Christian University in Tokyo, his first trip abroad. He says he likes to travel to foreign lands regularly to discover new cultures and languages. They enrich and inspire his music compositions.
Cheuk Yin, started his professional life as a freelance composer and also taught music to cover his financial needs. It took 7 years of teaching along with composing, producing musical pieces to finally expand his musical network. Thereafter, it was time to start on his own full-fledged musical journey. Cheuk Yin believes that a career plan is important especially when you want to take up a non-conventional career path. A target is crucial. When you start with freelancing, it is easy to get lost simply because you’re not very secure financially so many tend to follow money and not their target. Point noted Maestro!!
Pic: Performace at the OzAsia festival
On the personal front, Cheuk Yin is happily married and a father of a 2-year-old. His wife is a ex-marketing professional but now they work together. She helps out in his company in marketing. Notably, the family does not have a helper as he says they want to raise kids by themselves and not have kids raised by somebody else. To find the optimal life style that suits her personal and professional life, since coming back to Hong Kong from Holland 3Y ago, the NG family calls the mid-levels neighbourhood home for 3 year now. Mid-levels is close to my studio in Central and my office in Sai Ying Pun. And quieter than Sheung Wan or Kowloon where he has lived before.
Cheuk Yin’s company Yat Po Singers, which prides itself in being the first professional a cappella choral theatre company in Hong Kong, works with the elderly and is involved with some community projects. Recently, Cheuk Yin performed in a music project that presenting original songs written by elderly groups in different districts of Hong Kong. Each group created their own music with help of Pete Moser a UK based freelance composer, performer and teacher. Songs created were their own stories that the seniors wanted to share and also memories of their neighborhood. Coming soon is another project wherein they are going to teach a cappella to the elderly. The funding for the project is of private n public source and is already catered for.
Pic: Cheuk Yin & his band SIU2
Moving towards the end of our conversation, we had to talk about the present Hong Kong situation. So, what role can music and Cheuk Yin, as an important figure of the HK musical industry ,play to soothe the wounds of the HK public? Cheuk Yin says pensively “In these 2-3 months, indeed me along with other local composers/musicians have been asking ourselves as to what role to play we can play and what is their value. We believe that it is important to work, probably even harder on our own work. Culture in neighbourhoods is very important. We work to create unity through culture. Without an identifiable culture HK are just a place without soul. Through our work, we endeavour to reinforce our local identity.”
To know more about NG Cheuk Yin and his work: