Capilano University grad Clarence “CNFMUS” Au has a low-key demeanour. As a result, it may lead some to overlook his remarkable accomplishments in the music world.
Born and raised in Vancouver to immigrant parents, Au rose to astonishing heights on both sides of the Pacific Ocean.
“If I was to choose one label for myself, it would be music facilitator,” Au tells Pancouver in an interview at the Annex in Vancouver. “That’s because I can compose, create, produce, engineer, produce talent, and network people.”
Also known as C-Infamous, he’s either collaborated, composed, produced or worked with an impressive array of performers. They include Americans Dionne Warwick and Thug Life, among others. In Taiwan, the list includes superstar Jolin Tsai as well as Julia Wu, MC Hot Dog, and Dwagie.
In addition, Au worked with Masia One, a Singaporean-Canadian. She was the first woman nominated for Best Rap Video in the MuchMusic Video Awards.
But it’s in Hong Kong where Au achieved his greatest success. There, he arranged and composed “Dream Girl” for Fama, which is a play on the word farmer. The song topped the charts on Fairchild and generated massive airplay in Asia.
He also collaborated with Charmaine Fong, MC Yan, and several other Hong Kong hitmakers.
“I lived out there for almost seven years and then I came back to visit family in 2019,” Au says. “I was gong to go back on Chinese New Year. And the shit hit the fan—COVID. I kind of got stuck here.”
In the video “Dream Girl”, see the composing and arranging credits for C-Infamous.
Lessons began at four
Au’s introduction to music resembled that of many other Canadian kids.
“I’ve been playing piano since I was four,” he says. “My Asian parents put me into music lessons and I just really enjoyed playing music.”
He advanced through the Royal Conservatory of Music, reaching the teacher level by the age of 14.
“I got bored at school,” he adds. “Music was just something I loved from Day 1, so I learned how to make beats. I started producing for local artists.”
He recalls that back in those days, he was one of the only Asian Canadians in the local circle of hip-hop and R&B producers and MCs. But since he’s returned to Vancouver, he’s seen a lot more kids of Asian ancestry involved in these genres.
Au points out that people often cross back and forth from Asia to North America as part of their musical careers. When he was in Hong Kong, he worked with artists who routinely flew to New York and Los Angeles.
Jade Music Festival resonates
On Thursday (December 1), Au will host a panel discussion on the elevation of Chinese-language music in Canada. It takes place at 1:30 p.m. at the Annex as part of the inaugural Jade Music Festival, which is being presented by TD.
“At TD, we’re focused on helping to amplify diverse voices in music, arts, and culture, and strengthening resiliency across communities,” TD district leader Amy Xie said at a November 28 news conference at the Annex.
“One of the ways we do this is through supporting music festivals that reach an array of different audiences to help people create connections and foster a sense of belonging,” she continued. “Our goal is to increase the access to inclusive events across Canada.”
The Society of We Are Canadians Too organized the Jade Music Festival with the goal of making Vancouver a hub for Chinese-language music production.
Au believes that this has a chance of succeeding if the city doesn’t keep losing talented artists to Asia.
“I think the whole initiative of JMF really resonates with me now,” Au says. “Since I lived in Hong Kong, I’ve kind of realized how important it is to maintain the Cantonese language because it has been dying out.
“There is a big Cantonese-speaking population in Vancouver,” he continues. “I think that will help.”
When he was growing up, his parents spoke to him in Cantonese and he would speak English. However, his language skills improved dramatically after he began living in the Far East.
Before the interview ends, he throws out one more item of interest to aspiring young musicians in Vancouver.
“I’m still looking for Chinese-language artists,” Au says.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.