I Am What I Write – Cheng Kwok-kong
Radio programmes centred on music have always drawn in music aficionados. For a song to tug at people’s heartstrings, in addition to a beautiful melody, evocative lyrics are obviously essential. It can be said that the 1970s and 1980s were a time dominated by the three lyricists, Cheng Kwok-kong, Jimmy Lo, and James Wong.
Known by many as “Mr. Cheng”, Cheng Kwok-kong worked as a fulltime primary school teacher for 31 years. However, he is better known for the 2,000-odd Cantopop songs that he has penned the lyrics to. Mr. Cheng has loved drawing since childhood, and has learned disciplines such as oil painting, traditional Chinese painting, and landscape painting. Consequently, it is not uncommon for one to discover pictures within his lyrics. His love affair with music began with listening to the radio, another of his favourite childhood pastimes. “I used to sing Cantonese opera as I walked. Because I have a bad memory, I’d forget some of the words halfway through a song. I had to make up some lyrics to keep it going,” he says.
Mr. Cheng and George Lam have been partners in crime since the late 1970s, with the former penning the lyrics to more than 80 of the latter’s songs. Among them, I Need You Every Minute was almost written entirely in colloquial Cantonese: “Having you with me makes me happier. I’m content with everything when you’re near. Even salty fish and bok choy taste like the finest fare.” Prof. Stephen Chu of The University of Hong Kong’s School of Modern Languages and Cultures points out that Mr. Cheng handled the lyrics expertly – it does not come across as being vulgar as is the case with many other Cantonese love songs whose lyrics are colloquial.
Albert Au, who has been a radio DJ for 41 years, once took part in the production of a radio drama titled Coming Home. Its theme song, the lyrics to which were written by Mr. Cheng, won Au a Gold Song Award back in the day. The singer is very impressed by how the lyricist is able to depict the story and its associated imagery in spectacular fashion with just a few short lines.
For 30 years, Mr. Cheng worked as a primary school teacher while spreading positive energy in the music industry. His works, which brim with positivity, have earned him the moniker of “The Inspirational Lyricist”. Apart from countless inspirational songs, the lyrics to the majority of children’s songs and cartoon theme tunes of the 1970s and 1980s were also penned by him. In recent years, he has expanded into a new territory, writing Cantonese opera plays and even establishing a children’s Cantonese opera troupe. He hopes that its young members can learn about the art form in addition to performing on stage, so that they can pass this cultural treasure down to the next generation.
Executive Producer: Ng Wai In
Director: Yau, Annie
Assistant Producer: Yim Pui Ying