Contemporary music in Macau

By Jonathan Evans

While Hong Kong is a major stop for contemporary performers – thanks to its first-class stadium facilities, clubs, and music festivals such as Clockenflap and Sónar – Macau has lagged behind on touring artists’ itinerariesBut that’s by no means due to a lack of interest in music in the territory, which has produced a string of groups in recent decades.

    Clockenflap 2016 in Hong Kong

Simply put, Macau is smaller, with far fewer standalone venues suitable for live music. Cotai Arena, for example, which opened in 2007, has a capacity of 15,000 – and has hosted concerts by Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Super Junior – but it stands alone as an international-size entertainment stadiumArenas for artistic performances, such as Macao Cultural Centre, tend to stage theatre or musicals, while larger music events (Macao International Music Festival, Cotai Jazz & Blues) focus more on traditional styles than pop or rock. 

    Photography: Cotai Arena (Venetian Macao)

There’s no shortage of spaces for musicians in prominent hotels and casino complexes – Hard Rock Café, Roadhouse Blues, The Ritz-Carlton Bar & Lounge – but here you’ll see cover bands rehashing familiar tunes in tourist hot spots. The city’s sole independent venue for local up-and-coming artists performing original music or indie music lover, Live Music Association in peninsular Macau, is a non- profit organisation founded in October 2008.

Macau’s biggest homegrown band to date, Soler, looked to Hong Kong to further their career. The duo, consisting of twin brothers Julio and Dino Acconciare of Italian and Burmese descent, and after attempting to crack the European pop market, returned to Asia in the late ’90s. They were discovered at a concert in Hong Kong, and have since produced a string of successful albums with lyrics in Cantonese, Mandarin and English, finessing a brand of Eurasian pop laced with soul, blues and folk.

    Photography: Soler Facebook

Despite their limited platforma handful of other Macau bands have achieved lasting recognitionScamper, a six-piece who formed in 2005, combine emo, punk and rock styles, opened for Linkin Park in 2009 and have enjoyed broader visibility in mainland China. Catalyser, a boy/girl Cantopop act, formed in 2012 and represented Macau at the ABU TV Song Festival.

    Photography: Scamper Facebook

Melodic rock quartet L.A.V.Y., formed in 2007, whose singer Vincent Cheang founded Live Music Association, released their debut album My Lonely Journey in 2012. Forget the G are an alt-rock outfit with a decade-long career, a penchant for lengthy songs and multimedia performances, and three albums to their name.

    Photography: L.A.V.Y Facebook

Arguably the most significant band in Macau since the millennium, Blademark – who formed in 2005 – are a multi-national (Macau/Japan/Canada) group who fuse heavy metal with funk, rap and melodic rock. They consolidated their standing in the music community by organising the Blademark Festival in 2015 and 2016 to give like-minded local bands wider exposure.

    Photography: Blademark Facebook

While government support for the creative arts has benefited upcoming talent, and a small number of studios, production companies and promoters operate in the city, until now only one annual festival has helped bring local bands to public attention. Organised by the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Macau, the free-admission Hush!! Festival started in 2005 with a roster of acts representing Macau and the wider region.

The springtime festival began as a one-day event in the city centre, but gradually grew in popularity and in 2016 became a two-day affair at Hac Sa Beach in Coloane. Bands such as Catalyser have stated that Hush!! is the most important stage for Macau acts to gain exposure. As the festival has blossomed, it now features a market selling clothes, accessories, artworks, music and local food.

The major development in Macau’s music scene in recent years, chiming with global trends, has been the emergence of electronic dance music. Dutch DJ Hardwell performed the first EDM concert at Cotai Arena in 2015, the same year that famed party den Pacha opened in Studio City, just off the Cotai Strip. Reflecting this transition, last November the city’s musical calendar saw a new addition with Jigsaw Music Festival, an EDM extravaganza at Cotai Arena, headlined by Dimitri Vegas and Like Mike.  

    Dutch DJ Hardwell working his magic

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