Rock and roll can never die. And so Sam Jor Wing-yin is coming back.
The 64-year-old local radio deejay can’t retire just yet. For him, the energy of rock music envigorates him, keeps him young.
That’s why he decided to return to the rock music scene, after leaving broadcasting for over 30 years.
He is going to host a music program on DBC Radio 6 from late June this year.
There are so many songs waiting to be discovered, their stories waiting to be told.
Jor wants to continue spreading the gospel of rock, to help the public appreciate more this kind of music, even if he doesn’t get paid to do so.
“The period from the ’60s to the ’80s is the golden era of rock music,” Jor notes. “The style came in various forms and full of creative elements. The lyrics also reflected the people and society of the time. I never get bored by any of it.”
Jor often worries that “good music is going to be forgotten”. He thinks there are only a few genuine music programs in Hong Kong nowadays.
“In the age of information explosion, it is getting difficult for the audience to distinguish good music from bad. I bet the young generation hasn’t heard of rock stars like Jeff Beck or Robert Plant.”
Jor believes that there is no such thing as “old school” music. He is upset by the fact that youngsters do not realize what they’re missing when it comes to rock music.
“For instance, I still make an effort in understanding the lyrics of the songs from The Beatles. They are true geniuses. Music isn’t defined by its age, but by its quality.”
Jor grew up in a middle-class family. He first encountered foreign rock music on the radio when he was in primary school. In his teens, he started devouring music magazines.
He wrote to the press and radio stations, suggesting that they should introduce rock in Hong Kong. The music was still largely unheard of in the city at the time.
Jor’s enthusiasm and persistence got him to host two music programs on RTHK, and for his effort he was paid HK$30 for each episode.
His profound knowledge in rock music enabled him to attract a huge following, and fan mails soon poured in, praising him for his effort and asking him for more information about rock music and musicians.
Later, Jor was told that his programs had to be canceled due to limited budget. But then he offered to do the programs for free.
“I treated it as voluntary work. Even for the coming radio program, I am not getting paid either.”
For his selections, Jor had to bring his own discs. And so for each episode, he had to carry a huge pile of CDs from his home in North Point to Broadcast Drive first by ferry and then by taxi.
“I was lucky as I did not have family burdens. The transport fare was not much of a concern. I am blissfully lost in my music and I would like the public to feel the same.”
On top of hosting radio programs, Jor and a few friends produced Music Week Magazine in 1975, which eventually became an influential journal of rock music in Hong Kong.
Business was tough and they ran out of money after the first five issues. But with the help of rock enthusiasts who became his friends, the magazine survived.
With the rising popularity of rock music in the 80s, Music Week’s circulation grew from 4,000 to nearly 20,000.
Rock concerts were organized in the name of the magazine. Jor invited local and international rock bands including Hong Kong-based Ramband and an English band called Japan in 1982, another English band Culture Club in 1983 and Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin in 1984.
It was the best of times for rock music. But in the 1990s, the rock music scene subsided in Hong Kong, and the magazine stopped publication in 1997. Jor decided to reunite with his family in Canada.
That didn’t keep Jor away Hong Kong for long. In 2010, he invited Jeff Beck, the former guitarist of The Yardbirds, to stage a concert in Hong Kong for the first time.
“With support from my friends, I started organizing rock concerts again.”
It was worth the effort. Jor found Jeff Beck a kindred spirit for whom money isn’t everything, and the two corroborated in a number of projects.
Music Week Magazine reincarnated in an online version in 2013, and through it, Jor has been reaching out and interacting with a bigger and younger audience.
Jor feels happy coming back to the Hong Kong music scene. Rock and roll can never die, indeed.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 23.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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