Hong Kong’s piano man changes his tune to protest anthem
When government workers began to clear up a street back in June, after one of Hong Kong’s largest and most violent protests in decades, Kevin Cheung rushed to salvage 36 umbrellas from the debris.
“I could feel the violence that happened to the umbrellas and to the people holding them,” said Cheung, a 32-year-old designer who fashions products out of discarded materials, recalling the aftermath of the protest on Harcourt Road.
“What kind of waste comes out of the city connects really closely to what is happening in it.”
Five years ago, recycling stations set up during the “Occupy” or “Umbrella” protests, which paralyzed parts of Hong Kong for 79 days, inspired Cheung to give new life to mangled umbrellas left over from protests.
Umbrellas became the most visible symbol of the “Occupy” pro-democracy protests in 2014, when activists used them to fend off tear gas and pepper spray, and they remain an essential, and evocative, piece of kit for the anti-government movement today.
For Cheung, the ribs of umbrellas became material for thumb pianos – musical instruments played by plucking tuned metal tines attached to a small wooden board – that he first made in 2015.
On Sept. 28, the fifth anniversary of the “Umbrella Movement”, Cheung released a new version of the nine-tone thumb piano that plays “Glory to Hong Kong”, a song that has become the unofficial anthem of the protest movement.
Cheung’s thumb pianos belong to an ever-growing collection of art that draws inspiration from, or contributes to, the movement as Hong Kong people find creative ways to express their concerns and aspirations.
Sparked by a now-withdrawn extradition bill, the protests have evolved into calls for greater democracy and an inquiry into what many say is excessive use of force by police.
Cheung donated the proceeds from 45 thumb pianos, which sold for about HK$250 a piece, to raise more than $10,000 for two organizations that support protesters with legal help or medical care…….read more