Gayamyan: Hong Kong’s cult music band

Gayamyan (假音人) is a Hong Kong-based music band. Its name means “falsetto”. They do not sing in falsetto – the name is meant to reflect the artifice of their musical identity, as they claim no particular genre of music. “What kind of music we play, we don’t know, probably rock”, says the lead vocalist Cedric Chan Ho Fung.

Chan, Chung Chak Ming (drums), Ma Lap Yin (guitar) and Alex Li (bass) formed Gayamyan in Hong Kong in the year 2000. They published their first album a year later. Chan wrote most of the lyrics for that first album.

In 2003 a local experimental theatre group Zuni Icosahedron asked Gayamyan to produce music for its political satire show “East Wing West Wing”. It was a beginning of a long collaboration, since “East Wing West Wing” became a series of ten performances produced over the next ten years. The songs written for Zuni Icosahedron – the latest in 2008 – are the bulk of Gayamyan’s music repertoire even today.

Gayamyan has a unique position on Hong Kong’s music scene. Its members, 13 years later, by their own admission burned out, busy with work and families, no longer produce new music. They are not, however, forgotten. They still get invited to play concerts of their music once or twice a year and it’s apparent that they have a cult following.

Chan admits to being somewhat baffled by the group’s enduring popularity. He admits that its songs are not up to high standards of quality. He believes that it’s the group’s unique, unusual, even weird, sound and lyrics that made it stand out and attracted fans. Gayamyan created a new aesthetic on Hong Kong’s indie music scene. Its music is always ironic, full of references to popular culture and even to Cantonese opera.

Chan likes to believe that Gayamyan’s music encapsulates feelings of their generation, of people who came of age around the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China. Even after many years, “people laugh when listening to our songs, but there’s some bitterness”, he says. “Some fans come to tell me ‘when I listened to your songs, I cried’”.

Many new indie bands play concerts in Hong Kong today and use the internet to publish their songs. Gayamyan may be a relic of the past decade, but in some ways its legacy lives in Hong Kong’s indie music.

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