Clockenflap 2018 Acts Talk Hometowns and Influences

This month’s Clockenflap music and arts festival brings sounds and artists from across the globe to Hong Kong. Richard Lord speaks to six acts about their hometowns’ influence on their music

One of the joys of music festivals is the chance to see and hear what other cultures sound like, and how places shape sounds. Here, six artists appearing at this year’s Clockenflap music and arts festival tell us about their hometowns, and the other places that have influenced their music.

GDJYB, Hong Kong

How has your hometown influenced your music?

Hong Kong is a truly bizarre city that has inspired and influenced us in every way. Living in this wild and vivid city is an exciting adventure every day, and yet the constantly changing pace can be very stressful. From the beginning, we decided to write our songs in ‘Honglish’, a quirky hybrid of our native Cantonese and English. This is our way of expressing how Hong Kong, as lovable a place as it is, is filled with ridiculous ideas. We tend to write our songs in a pretty slow tempo because living in this rushed city can be tough.

Have any other places had a major impact on your work – and if so, how?

Our neighbour Taipei has impacted our works heavily, too. Back when we started, the indie music scene in Hong Kong was barely noticeable, whereas Taiwan is known for its vibrant scene. That’s why we really appreciate music festivals like Clockenflap for propping up the local scene.

Youngr, Manchester

How has your hometown influenced your music?

Mainly by me not wanting to sound like it. As I grew up in Manchester, it was all about Oasis and football, neither of which I really liked. Ironically, I love Oasis now. Still hate football, though.

Have any other places had a major impact on your work – and if so, how?

South America and the Caribbean have had quite a big influence, as they influenced my dad’s music a lot, which has passed down to me subconsciously. I’m obsessed with syncopation, which you hear a lot of in the music of those cultures.

Clockenflap, Younger
Christoffer Rosenfeldt

Bohan Phoenix, Chengdu

Bohan Phoenix, Clockenflap

How has your hometown influenced your music?

Having emigrated to the US at age 11 (first to Boston, then New York), moving back to and rediscovering China helped me find my way forward. Living in Chengdu, where I’m now based most of the time, gave me the sauce I needed to stand alone as my own artist. I had to learn more about my identity in order to truthfully and accurately express myself.

Have any other places had a major impact on your work – and if so, how?

New York was also instrumental in shaping my sound as a rapper, and the eight years I spent there, from the ages of 17 to 25, are when I gathered the discipline and the knowledge I needed to continue pursuing the dreams and goals I set way back in my teenage years. The authenticity I felt from the city itself, this living, breathing place, gave me the confidence to be authentic. It took away the fear I had of not being accepted, because it didn’t matter; it was about just being the best.

CIFIKA, Seoul & Portland

How has your hometown influenced your music?

I actually have two hometowns: I was born and raised in Seoul until I was 15, and moved to Portland, Oregon, for my high-school years. It was really interesting to participate in music in both environments. In South Korea, I was in the school choir, and that led me to songs that have all kinds of harmonies. In Portland, I sang in English, Latin, German – all kinds of different languages. That made me realise how language can affect the music itself because the cultures of different regions are in it.

Clockenflap, Cifika

Have any other places had a major impact on your work – and if so, how?

San Jose, California, has special meaning in my life, because it’s where I first started to learn music theory. Before I moved to San Jose, I used to be an art director, but now I’m a full-time electronic musician based in Seoul. I learned how to make music there: how to properly sing and produce music. The city is very peaceful and full of good energy, with a futuristic point of view, and because of that, in some of my lyrics I talk about the future and science; those are all inspired by San Jose.

Amadou & Mariam, Bamako

Amadou & Mariam, Clockenflap
C Brandon/Redferns

How has your hometown influenced your music?

Amadou: Our music is completely related to our country and to our hometown: Bamako, Mali. Since childhood, the influence of the smells, sounds and culture of Bamako have been in our music. For me, since I was not born blind [husband and wife Amadou and Mariam lost their vision at ages 16 and five respectively], I could also recognise the earthy colours of a city that has a shining sun 10 months a year.

Mariam: I can remember listening to the noisy streets though the windows of the Institute for Blind Youth; they still have a great impact in my compositions every time I’m home. Bamako is a modern city full of different musical cultures.

9M88, Taipei

9M88, Clockenflap
Kao Cheng Kai

How has your hometown influenced your music?

I grew up in Taipei. It’s a small and densely populated city. Every trivial thing seems so important there. Taiwan also has refreshing and irreplaceable aesthetics when I look from a distance. I guess the condensed energy is channelled into my music, and I get to appreciate the details in my daily life.

Have any other places had a major impact on your work – and if so, how?

New York is where I’m living now. So many artists who live here are trying to achieve something. I was really pumped by that. The city’s loud but lonely vibe also plays a big part in my work, which covers R&B and pop. I enjoy a good amount of loneliness. It makes me think about life and my loved ones.

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