Grasshopper and Softhard

grasshopper_softhard

Grasshopper

Dressed like Liberace, dancing like Lady Gaga, singing hardcore bubblegum pop like Britney Spears, and putting on a show like Cirque Du Soleil, Grasshopper are the classic 90’s Cantopop act from Hong Kong, refugees from the Big Show era (see also: Leslie Cheung, Anita Mui) who have re-emerged recently, still fabulous, still fantastic, and still phenomenal pop star supergods descended from the Harmonic Heavens to bestow some glitter on us mere earthlings. Grasshopper started their odyssey as three human boys. Calvin Choy and Remus Choy were brothers and Edmond So was their neighbor in a Hong Kong housing estate. They formed a song and dance crew named Grasshopper for the New Talent Singing Contest where one of the judges was Anita Mui. The Madonna of Hong Kong, Mui was blown away by the boys and took them under her wing. Soon they were back-up dancing for her and for Leslie Cheung, but they received so much fan mail that in 1987 Polygram signed them to a contract.

They have since released 40 albums, toured the world, and played everywhere from cruise ships and casinos to massive stadiums that they’ve sold out in the blink of an eye. Known for their mad showmanship (they keep trying to break the encore record – they’re up to six encores these days), they’re not just a tornado of bedazzled talent, but they’re 1000% sincere about what they do and 10,000% committed. When they wanted to incorporate African tribal designs and props into their 2008 concerts they went to Africa and wound up bartering for what they needed using cows and chickens for currency.

Grasshopper are also the inheritors of a noble tradition. The Big Show era of Cantopop in the 80’s and 90’s is a performance science as difficult to execute as kung fu, and it requires a certain deity-sized personality to pull it off. Roman Tam, Anita Mui, and Leslie Cheung were its greatest practitioners and now that all three of them have passed away, only Grasshopper are left to carry the sequined discoball torch into the future. But a torch is not enough for Grasshopper. In their case it’s a multi-colored bonfire lit by a gold-plated flamethrower wielded by three gods who walk this earth. Three gods named… Grasshopper.

Softhard

It’s hard to describe what, exactly, Softhard are to people who aren’t from Hong Kong, except to say they’re the Matt Stone and Trey Parker of Cantopop. Starting out as radio DJs in the late 80’s, this two-man group became filmmakers, imagemakers, designers, rappers, musicians, power ballad artists, satirists, comedians, artfilm superstars, and general all-around troublemakers who are as much a part of the HK mediascape as Aquaman is part of the global oceanscape. Softhard are scruffy, they’re talented, they’re smart, and they’re a hell of a lot of fun. If you have any doubts, just check out their musically sharp send-up of Mainland China in The Great War.

In 1988, two years out of college, they started working in radio as DJ Soft (Jan Lamb) and MC Hard (Eric Kot) doing a gameshow that became wildly popular. Their prank calls became famous, their banter was quoted in offices, and their gift for the Cantonese gab became legendary. They started releasing albums which were eagerly snatched up. To get a hint of the reckless abandon and infectious energy of their early music just check out their musical number “Gala Gala Happy” in Jackie Chan’s City Hunter in which they rap, sing, breakdance (badly), beat up audience members, and light themselves on fire.

By 1995 the two were still releasing music but Jan Lamb was also directing movies like Out of the Blue (edited by Eric Kot), and later 4 Faces of Eve (1996) which was shot by Christopher Doyle. In 1997 the two split, with Jan Lamb designing album covers and directing music videos while Eric Kot concentrated on making a series of inscrutable, outrageously oblique, and totally unique films like First Love: The Litter on the Breeze (1998) and Dragon Heat (2000). They reunited in 2006 and instantly sold out four nights at the massive Hong Kong Coliseum, then added six more nights which also sold out. They are a force of nature which cannot be stopped.