AMS Meeting Room 3 Live Paper Session
14 Nov 2020 06:00 PM - 07:30 PM(America/Chicago)
20201114T1800 20201114T1930 America/Chicago Sounding the Hong Kong Protests Meeting Room 3 AMS Virtual 2020
Add Oil! (加油): Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Protests and Cross-Cultural Formal Play in Ram Cheung’s “Don't Retreat! (不撤不退)
Individual Paper 06:00 PM - 07:30 PM (America/Chicago) 2020/11/15 00:00:00 UTC - 2020/11/15 01:30:00 UTC

In August 2019, I collaborated with dance community organizers in Hong Kong to teach partnered blues dancing workshops and attend a dance party featuring local blues musicians. The evening's final song was an original 12-bar blues by guitarist Ram Cheung sung in Cantonese and responding to the protests happening nightly in Hong Kong's streets. During the song's final chorus, I witnessed a moment of catharsis among Hong Kong dancers as the room collectively erupted in impassioned cheers when Cheung's tune reached its climax: a break-time phrase in the style of Muddy Waters in which Cheung's lyrics offer explicit, direct opposition to Hong Kong's police force. Cheung punctuates this formal shift with an equally forceful linguistic one, switching from a formal written Chinese intended for florid poetic songs to spoken "street" Cantonese. The strength of this climactic moment comes from Cheung's manipulation of conventions from both American blues and Cantonese pop song traditions, the sort of cross-cultural blending upon which Hong Kongers have long prided themselves. However, while the song has been performed multiple times since, my Hong Kong interlocutors report it has not reproduced the energy of that special moment in August.

This paper thus employs Judith Becker's work on Deep Listeners to situate this shared experience as a specific, momentary site of confluence where partnered blues dancing and the cross-cultural play of Cheung's song yielded a moment of community catharsis deeply tied to the specific context of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests during summer 2019 and to the subcultural micro-community that Hong Kong blues dancers have built over the past several years. Since the "Umbrella Movement" of 2014, some Hong Kong social dancers have gravitated away from swing dancing and the "blind euphoria" they say it offers and toward blues music and dance as these forms' relationship with African American protest traditions resonates more strongly with their experiences and goals. In this moment, Cheung's music served to "add oil" (a common protest chant meaning to add fuel) to dancers battling to preserve the uniqueness of their city and the culture they have built over generations.

Christi Jay Wells
Arizona State University
“I Heard You Through the Tear Gas!”: Sound Acts in the 2019–20 Hong Kong Protests
Individual Paper 06:00 PM - 07:30 PM (America/Chicago) 2020/11/15 00:00:00 UTC - 2020/11/15 01:30:00 UTC

In Hong Kong's 2019-20 Pro-democracy Protests, deep-seated and conflicting values between Hongkongers and the Chinese sovereignty are seen and heard from street spaces to shopping malls. Tear gas, pepper spray, injured bodies, raging roars, and the striking sounds of road signs, traffic cones, umbrellas, and molotov cocktail are assembled. Particular sounds and their musicality take on a vital role in the protest sphere--as they are heard and performed in certain ontological conditions, sounds exist as subversive _sound acts_. The echoing of protest sounds offers support to protestors in the sonic sphere through their reverberating presence in the pungent mists of tear gas. Slogans and striking sounds enable a dialogue-like exchange between empowered protestors and riot police, the two now unified as physical, sonic, and political oppositions through the making of their own sound acts. The sonorous assemblage of the protests, then, constitute an emerging disharmony among sonically-related opposites. At the same time, everyday mundane urban sound acts are muted in this new sonic and spatial experience, where the entanglement between fleshy beings and the newly emerged urban environment is restructured. Borrowing LaBelle's words, the agentive potentiality of slogans and the striking sounds legitimizes an "escape route" through "affective processes intrinsic to finding place," enabling the emergence of "new social formations" that depart from the city's mundane, everyday harmony. Taking the sonic assemblage of the Hong Kong Pro-democracy Protests in 2019-20 as a case study, this paper theorizes on-site fieldwork and first-person experience to discuss: (1) how the complex entanglement of human beings, sound and the protest sphere explains the experience of protest sound as action; and (2) the possibility of the subversion of an "old Hong Kong" (the mundane everyday) and the values attached to it via emerging sonic activism in public gatherings.

Presenters Winnie W C Lai
University Of Pennsylvania
Arizona State University
University of Pennsylvania
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