Text: Vicky Fung
Whisky tasting is not only about the taste and texture, it allows you to process the past. Different years mark different eras and stages, it is more or less like interpreting life. This time I’ve invited three lyricists from generations X, Y, and Z. First, we have Pia Ho Sau-ping (a.k.a. Big Sister Cha, “Cha-Jeh” in Cantonese), a media creator active from the era of Tat Ming Pair to the present; Leung Pak-kin, a devoted creator of parodies related to current issues since the 90s; and T-Rexx, a young, aspiring lyricist from the current generation.
These lyricists cover thirty years of songwriting, from Pia Ho writing the lyrics for Tat Ming Pair’s 1987 hit "I Burned Letters in My Old Residence the Other Afternoon”, Leung Pak-kin writing the 2010 "Our Woodstock" for C AllStar and "Always Be Together” for ToNick in 2017, to T-Rexx writing lyrics for Alfred Hui's "Effortlessness" and Mirror's "One and All” in 2020. For this precious interview, Jebsen Fine Wines carefully selected Bowmore 25-year Single Malt, Auchentoshan 18-year Single Malt, Yamazaki 12-year Single Malt, and Hakushu Distiller Reserve to get our guests in the mood to talk about “the good times'' of their different generations.
A Toast to Us 25 Years Ago
Among the bottles of whisky in front of us, the one that best represents Pia Ho (Big Sister Cha) is the Bowmore 25-year-old Single Malt. It turned out "I Burned Letters at My Old Residence That Afternoon" (1987) by Tat Ming Pair were the first lyrics written by Sister Cha. She joked that T-Rexx was not even a “cell” 30 years ago (and yes, T-Rexx is not even 30), and Pak-kin was probably in primary 4 or 5 getting started with his parodies. Big Sister Cha, who still didn't have the nickname at the time, met Tat Ming Pair on stage around the time when they composed the theme song for the stage play “Romance of the Rock”.
Leung Pak-kin claimed to be a ‘stud muffin’, who was busy chatting up girls whilst preparing for university 25 years ago. As for me, 1996 was the year when I released my first composition “Can’t Let Go”. During the period of 1992-1996, Pia Ho was the host of a show on Commercial Radio 2 under the stage name Ho Li-li, while hosting another show “Monster City” under another stage name “Feisty Lady Cha”, where she got her nickname “Big Sister Cha” from. Leung Pak-kin advised T-Rexx in a candid tone, "The older the more valuable, you know? Guess which one of the whiskies here is the most expensive? It’s the oldest one of course.” By the way, I’m truly grateful for Jebsen to set this interview up so that I could talk to these pals in the same industry who are 30 years apart. It feels incredibly amazing.
18 Years Ago in Hong Kong - Another Year of Masks
So, what about 18 years ago? What were they doing then? It would take us back to 2003, with SARS and masks embedded in our memories. Who would have thought that 18 years later we would be back wearing masks again, only this time the whole world is involved, and no end to the social distancing in sight. In addition to the deep gloom cast over us by the pandemic back in 2003, Sister Cha and Pak-kin recalled that we also lost several superstars that year. While most people remember Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui passing away on April 1st and December 30th, 2003 respectively, for Pak-kin, Richard Lam was the third superstar who left us that same year. He recalled getting to his office at 8 am as usual on November 17th, and read about Lam’s death in the newspaper. As a follower of Lam’s lyrics and columns, he burst into tears, grieving for someone whom he had never met. Pak-kin added that many lyricists in Hong Kong were inspired by Richard Lam. Allegedly, the lyricist Lin Xi ("Lam Chik” in Cantonese) took “Lam” as his stage name because of Richard Lam. Another lyricist Wyman Wong was also inspired by the boundless ideas of the genius, for example he used Batman as a figure in his love-related work “Love Batman” in 1987.
All Equal Despite The Year
Although the year does influence the price of whisky, the golden rule, which also applies to lyricists, is that “the older the pricier”. Leung Pak-kin, who sits between the previous and the new generation, believes that no matter what year the writer was born in, after 12, 18, 25 years, or even if they are still “underage”, they are all in a way equal. Having them all blooming is better than nurturing the ones only from a certain era. Take T-Rexx, the lyricist born in the 90s who was active as a rapper before inadvertently crossing over into the realm of pop songs. In the two brief years he has been in the industry, he has published dozens of songs, with his work “Effortlessness” becoming a top ten hit. At the end of the interview Pak-kin said, “while we’re not giving up on the young ones, we also hope they won’t give up on us “oldies”, we do still have something “young” in us, it’s just a matter of time until you find out.”.