Local composer uses music to express political ideas
Expressing politics in music

Paul Lin composing political songs in his home studio. (Cindy Pat)

By Cindy Pat

By composing songs like “Atypical Rubbish” and “No Sea”, Paul Lin has created a new forum for Hong Kong people to voice their discontent with the government.

Paul Lin, 30, started composing songs with his classmates when he was a Form 6 student.

After graduating from The Chinese University of Hong Kong with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, he worked in the computer field. He later worked for a music company, where he composed and edited songs for local pop singers.

During the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome periodearlier this year, he produced his first political song, “Atypical Rubbish”, in his home studio. It was adapted from Cantonpop singer Leslie Cheung’s “Monica”.

The song sarcastically reflects on the inefficiency of the Hong Kong government in dealing with the SARS epidemic. “Atypical Rubbish” was so popular that it soon spread around the city.

“I casually sent the song to my friends through the Internet, and people started forwarding the song around the Net. I did not expect that.

“I was shocked to receive my own copy seven times the next day,” he said.

On the third day, the lyrics of his song were published in a local newspaper.

The unexpected and rave responses from the public spurred him on.

He later wrote “Mrs. Tung” and “Love Hong Kong”, which also received wide acclaim. His website has been visited more than 1 million times since June.

He explained that the demand for political songs is increasing because society is under great stress.

“The troubles brought to us by SARS, coincided with the suicide of Leslie Cheung, a prominent and beloved figure. It alerted me to the problems of society,” he added.

“People want a way out. So I want to relieve them with this kind of music,” he said.

He described what he does as the “musicalization of politics”, which basically means the use of music to express political ideas.

He agreed with the president of the executive committee of the Hong Kong Democratic Development Network, Chu Yiu Ming, that politics should be something that makes people happy.

“It is obvious that Hong Kong politics lacks color,” Mr. Lin added.

Therefore, his songs usually contain a lot of humor.

Besides providing a channel for Hong Kong people to vent their frustrations, Mr. Lin composes political songs because he wants to do something new and different.

“I know that this is a new element and it is in my hands. It is like a scientist discovering a new chemical element.

“I know I am the first one to do it,” he said.

His goal is to establish a un-ique standpoint and to find out how he is different from others.

He is not satisfied with being just an average man in the street.

Mr. Lin said that writing political songs is very different from writing pop songs.

“Pop songs are highly commercial. You have no say over anything.
“But with political songs, I can suggest anything I want. My feelings are more effectively expressed,” he said.

Of the political songs he has composed, Mr. Lin’s favorite is “7_13”.

This was the theme song during a demonstration for democratic reform outside the Legco building on 13 July. Mr. Lin composed and wrote the song in a short time.

“It was sung at subsequent assemblies. This makes me feel that what I am doing is worthwhile,” he said.

Although his songs have gained wide acclaim, Mr. Lin also receives criticism.

“I have received several e-mails that lectured me, saying that I am too outspoken. Some even used foul language.”

But he thinks that more criticism simply means greater publicity for songs.