HONG KONG – A city whose identity is built around contrasts – East and West; old and new China; locals and immigrants – Hong Kong has a unique culture that, until recently, had not been successfully publicly showcased.

Hong Kong is known as a melting point of cultures, but globalization has unintentionally undermined the balance between the eastern and western influences in my childhood. My generation’s upbringing was dominated by American and British pop culture, and Clockenflap is one remedy to this imbalance.

Evolving from a one-day gathering of 1,500 music lovers in 2008 to a three-day event expecting over 65,000 people this weekend, Clockenflap is an annual music, arts, film, and food festival held in Hong Kong that highlights the city’s unique contrasts and is effectively reviving the Hong Kong arts scene.

In recent years, attending Clockenflap has become an integral part of Hong Kong’s youth. The festival brings local artists into the spotlight and exposed my generation to the local arts scene. It successfully generated a strong interest in us to investigate and learn more about the arts within Hong Kong.

Unfortunately, my first Clockenflap was a failure. It was 2011 and I had tagged along with my sister on a whim, not knowing or caring what I was about to witness. The dark of the night seemed to shroud the various pop-up tents with a veil of intimidation; streetlights were few and far between; shadowed faces conversed while indulging in their beer- or wine-induced elegance; towering figures danced to the music and twirled their way from tent to tent.

In my shock and apprehension, I had failed to enjoy Clockenflap. But more importantly, I had missed a chance to meet the local East.

Two years later, I returned to Clockenflap. Seduced by the set list of musicians, namely the indie British rock band The 1975, I decided to give the festival another chance.

Sadness gnawed at my bones as I realized that this was the first time that I had ever listened to a Hong Kong band. And I knew that many of my generation also lost their Hong Kong music virginity that day.

Clockenflap plays a huge role in showcasing the various talents of local artists and exposing the youth to the local art scene, thus raising awareness of and generating appreciation for the arts within Hong Kong.

With a rising popularity in Asia, Clocklenflap also functions as a platform for budding local artists, giving them recognition both domestically and abroad.

A choir of Hong Kong foreign domestic workers, singing about their experiences leaving family at home to find work, is set to perform this weekend. This performance will only amplify their voice to speak out against the de jure and de facto discrimination against foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong.

The festival provides opportunities for people to share their versions of Hong Kong and to portray Hong Kong’s social dynamics through various forms of artistic expression.

Clockenflap does invite a lot of big-name foreign artists to perform at the festival and one could argue that these acts distracts from the local performances. But had The 1975 not performed at Clockenflap, I would not have given the gathering another chance. Instead, I would say that the local artists thrive off of foreign artists’ popularity; the foreign acts draw in and attract certain audiences to which these local artists will also appeal.

Globalization marks progress but allows for Western dominant cultures such as Hollywood to take over a city’s local arts scene. Festivals like Clockenflap that highlight a city’s idiosyncratic culture and balance local and foreign influences are a formidable catalyst to the complete overhaul of one’s cultures and traditions.

Such festivals celebrate the distinct identities of cities and rather than resisting globalisation, they allow for globalization to occur without eradicating the essence of individual cultures. Any city that can finds its culture lost amongst foreign influences should host festivals like Clockenflap.

(Written by Alexandra Cheng, edited by Terril Y. Jones;

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