Say it with music

October 20, 2022 11:51
Photo: Hong Kong Tourism Board

The recent further relaxation of Covid-based restrictions by the current, belatedly enlightened Hong Kong administration came as welcome news to a society that has felt increasingly incarcerated by the many layered rules and proscriptions on what used to pass for a normal life.

The succession of reductions in the inhibiting regulations indicated the advent of an administration more attuned to the necessity to restore life to Hong Kong than its predecessor ever displayed.

For both musicians and lovers of live music, the announcement that this singularly important aspect of entertainment would be restored to bars and restaurants was an uplifting moment.

The immediate response was that finally, those in power had seen the light of common and scientific good sense.

But as with so much welcome news, the devil is in the detail.

Musicians will have to take a PCR test twice in every period of 7 days in addition to a Rapid Antigen Tests every time before entering each venue.

Moreover, musicians will have to continue to wear a mask so far as possible.

So, despite the PCR and RAT tests, the pianist, drummer and bass player remain masked while playing to an audience that is unmasked and not required to undergo either PCR or RAT tests. Rationale?

If this new regimen of tests and masking is considered effective, why was it not introduced earlier?

Is the necessity for PCR tests because there is no confidence in the RAT tests? If so, why bother with the RATs?

How is it that the government sponsored Freespa Jazz Fest had unmasked musicians being driven around in public in an open-sided truck playing to advertise the event?

Whilst the rest of the world outside China is going about its daily business without any form of Covid-inspired restrictions, the poor musicians in Hong Kong have been on the bread line for almost 3 years.

These people, who give a massive amount of pleasure to thousands, have been deprived of the means to earn their livelihood. Bearing in mind that they are also at almost the lowest end of the wage scale, are mostly self-employed and have no security beyond the next job, the effect of the restrictions on them has been devastating.

Many of the musicians are from the Phillipines and even if they could find alternative employment, their work visas do not permit them to do so.

They were the victims of an especially cruel cultural phenomenon in which those with money or power, or both, placed no value on those who had neither.
It is as though they were held in institutionalised contempt.

I suspect that this is because there is a popular ethic that dictates that people are measured by their social status, so those who have little or nothing only have themselves to blame.

Hong Kong’s rating on the Gini co-efficient marks it out as in the top flight of grave income disparity. Tycoons basking in obscene wealth whilst the homeless sleep on the street.

During the pandemic, the property magnates were content to allow tenants to go bankrupt rather than help small businesses see out the economic storm.

This is a jungle syndrome in an urban setting, a far cry from a caring society.

By the same yardstick, how can the musician, deprived of the means of earning his living, be held responsible for falling into poverty?

Many workers in the gig economy bore the brunt of the economic and social effects of the Covid regimen, by definition they do not enjoy any form of financial security. It is a measure of the previous administration that no provision was made for these victims of an inhumane regulatory regime.

For an administrative region as exceptionally wealthy as Hong Kong, the failure to comprehend the damage done to the lives of these people and to make fair provision for them to ride out the storm, stands as an indelible indictment.

It is probably the curse of countless governments around the world that they suffer from a self-imposed disconnection from those they govern.

The end result of this disconnect on Hong Kong’s musicians is not only economic but social and psychological. The financial cost is there for all to see but the psychological damage is only just becoming apparent.

The question to which there appears to be no answer is ‘why should the musicians be singled out for preferential discrimination?’

Write the doleful lyrics and set it to music in a minor key and entitle it “Hong Kong Busker’s Blues”.

“Say it with music
Beautiful music”

(Irving Berlin)

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