The time was 00:00 of March 21.

After playing the cover, or Cantonese, version of "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" that is localsinger George Lam's "Dare Love, Dare Do" Commercial Radio 2 announced the commencement of its new campaign: All songs to be aired on the station would be originally composed.

This idea was first introduced after the annual award of their "Ultimate Song Chart" in 1994. "1995, the Year of Composers" was their slogan emphasizing the importance of local composers.

Miss Teresa Tang Kit Ming, assistant programme director of CR2, said that the station started this policy because it was high time that Hong Kong had its own music culture.

Said Miss Tang: "We have done similar things before. For instance, several years ago, we held the '100 percent composers' annually. On the days of '100 percent composers', we played only original songs.

"As a mass medium, we should take the lead to promote local music composition. Moreover, as a channel focusing on pop music, it's good to broadcast creative music at our air time.

"So since January 1, 1995, we have come out and told the public that 1995 would be a year of composers," said Miss Tang.

Said Mr. Brian Leung, the music director of CR2: "If we want an invulnerable and healthy Hong Kong music culture, there must be consolidated composers to back up."

"Canto-pop is very popular in Hong Kong but most of it is only Cantonese versions (of foreign songs)," he said.

Record companies are doing their musical business only in the sense that they are making great profits.

Using original songs from unknown local composers is comparatively more risky. It is less expensive but more secure to buy the copyright of foreign hits and then change them into Cantonese versions.

Therefore, record companies used to choose songs from some well-known composers or Cantonese versions of hit songs from other countries.

This at least guarantees a certain ratings on radio and sales among the public.

"But this brings no contribution to the local music culture. They are unwilling to make changes and seldom try to train new composers," said Mr. Leung.

Mr. Terence Tsoi Kwok Kuen is a famous singer and song writer in the Territory, freelancing for several companies.

Mr. Tsoi said that there were many composers in Hong Kong, but few of them were of high quality. He explained the record companies' difficulties under profit-oriented pressures.

"Demonstration tapes from new composers are delivered to record companies every day. Yet, they are of poor quality. Here high quality is defined as marketable or suitable for the taste of the masses," he said.

"Today most of the local songs are produced only by a few famous composers and so the styles of local music are quite similar," added Mr. Leung.

"Indeed, an adequate number of qualified local music composers is the key to a healthy and successful local music culture.

"Therefore, the first step is to increase the quantity of local songs so that we can choose the good pieces," he said. "We should give them more chances to be aired."

Mr. Tsoi agreed that CR2's music policy could foster musical creativity.

"It conveys a message that we local musicians have to create with our own hands.

"Much reliance and expectation has been put on local musicians, who in turn will put more effort in music composition," he said.

In his eyes, there are a great number of domestic composers and works from which the record companies can choose.

According to Miss Tang, the pace of local music development should not be the main factor for the implementation of CR2's policy.

"Even if we wait until the quality of local music becomes mature, people may still think it's not the right time yet," she said.

Meanwhile, many record companies and artists are quite active in helping the campaign.

"Many singers and music producers have seen dim futures for Cantonese versions and already had started working on music composition before we launched our campaign," said Miss Tang.

"Several weeks after our campaign, CR2 received 34 original tracks from record companies.

"This shows their supporting attitudes towards local music.

"Also, many of their public relations officers told us that they have been signing up with more new bands and singer-song-writers," she said.

Miss Tang denied that record companies were forced to accept the policy or suppressed, as has been reported.

"They have begun to realize that original music is the current trend," said she.

CR2's policy caused a lot of gossip from the other two competitive stations. CR2' slogan "No listening to the old lyrics" especially seemed to target at Radio Television Hong Kong.

But Miss Natalie Wong, senior public relations manager of CR2, told the press that their slogan only meant that CR2 was a station catering for the demands of teenagers from 15 to 24.

The two stations also criticized CR2 for contracting musical development, leaving no chance for listeners who like Cantonese versions of foreign songs.

To Miss Tang, people were overly suspicious about this matter.

She also explained that there was a prelude prior to their policy.

"We only want to promote creativity and originality, which are necessary elements in every community. Without them, people would have to rely on old traditions and systems," said Miss Tang.

"We have never said that cover versions are low quality. Not broadcasting something doesn't mean it's no good. It's only a choice to broadcast solely original music.

"Listeners can choose CR1 or channels of other stations if they want both originals and Cantonese versions. We also play English, Japanese and Mandarin pop," she added.

Mr. Leung felt satisfied with the reaction from the public since the implementation of the policy.

"At first, we worried that there would not be enough new original songs for us to broadcast. Surprisingly, we receive many new songs , about 17 to 18 every week. Record companies are willing to comply with our policy.

"Before the policy was implemented, about 30 to 40 percent of songs being plugged in CR2 were cover versions. Now, all songs plugged in CR2 are original music.

"The structure of record industry is somehow changing. Last year, the Hong Kong music was dominated by the 'Four Big Kings'.

"Now, we can see other faces behind the superstars. Record companies are signing up contracts with more song writers and bands," said Mr. Leung.

Singers also begin to sing songs of different styles. For example, one now can hear Vivian Lai singing swing songs and Cheung Chi Lam singing funky songs.

"Indeed, we want to have diversified music. We would like to exchange musical knowledge with foreign musicians instead of just copying foreign music," said Mr. Leung.

According to Mr. Leung, CR2 has increased the quantity of original songs rather successfully.

Upgrading the standard of original songs will be the next step. To do this, they will focus on band sounds as bands are a very important creative source.

"We haven't planned how long the will policy last, but we do hope it to continue for at least a rather longer period of time.

"Maybe one day there will be so many good original songs that the policy will no be longer needed," he said.

According to Miss Tang, in addition to broadcasting original songs, CR2 will also continue to encourage local music.

If someone has composed a song but has found no chance to release it, he could send it to CR2 and it might be played.

Should it receive positive feedback, it will be recommended to record companies.

"We also invite music critics to our programmes to give comments on original pop music," she said.

Mini-concerts will be held for singer-song-writers or other composers or bands. CR2 has been organizing concerts for local composers for seven years.

"These actions were a great encouragement to musicians within the industry. Whenever they write songs which win popular support, they get a certain broadcast rating on CR2," said Miss Tang.

The decreasing sale of compact discs and the flourishing fake CD industry are partly because consumers may feel cheated for buying genuine CDs.

"If there are only one or two good songs in a CD, its storage value is rather low. Only CDs of good music could convince people to keep," Mr. Leung concluded.


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