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North Van musician Duck Lau developed an ear for songwriting at a very young age

North Vancouver singer-songwriter Duck Lau
North Vancouver singer-songwriter Duck Lau enjoys many genres of music.

When Pancouver reaches professional musician Duck Lau over Zoom, he’s in the dark.

That’s because the Hong Kong-born singer-songwriter is dealing with a power outage in his North Vancouver home. It’s pitch black in his basement studio.

But Lau, like many former Hongkongers, is resilient. He keeps his wits about him.

So, rather than cancel the interview, he feels his way up the stairs. He carries on with a bit of light near the fireplace in his living room.

Once he gets there, Lau is more than happy to share his passion for a wide range of musical genres, including Cantopop, R&B, hip-hop, rock, and disco.

Below, you can hear his Cantonese cover of the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights”.

A very young songwriter

“I loved music since I was a little kid—ever since I knew how to chat with people,” Lau says.

He remembers entering his first talent competition in Hong Kong at the age of four or five. By nine years of age, he was writing his own music.

“I was not writing something to sing,” Lau explains. “I was writing something to play with my recorder.”

That was because he was bored with the one song he knew. Plus, he wanted to play a duet with a friend on a recorder in a music competition.

“Out of need, I wrote something; it was like a 16-bar thing,” Lau recalls. “We played recorders together. Somehow, we won second place—not bad!”

His music teacher asked him where this song came from. He replied that he wrote it himself. She praised his his talent, which, according to Lau, encouraged him to continue.

Lau tours internationally

Lau later enjoyed great career success in Hong Kong, winning the Best Song Award in 1995 at the Song Writers Quest. He now travels the world with high-profile Asian musicians, as well as working as a composer and producer. He’s written hundreds of songs.

On November 30, Lau will perform at the Jade Music Festival Showcase at the Vancouver Playhouse.

TD is presenting the festival as part of five days of seminars, music-industry events, workshops and performances devoted to Chinese-language music. The Society of We Are Canadians Too organized the conference.

Lau is a member of the Vantopop Collective, which is encouraging production of more Chinese-language music in Metro Vancouver. It also aims to spur more Chinese-language production in other cities where there are musicians from the Hong Kong diaspora.

The term Vantopop is a variation on the term Cantopop, which dominated Hong Kong popular music from the 1970s to the 2000s. He also belongs to a society called the Hong Kong Professional Musicians in Canada (HKPMC).

Lau points out that when he was growing up in Hong Kong, residents learned two languages: Cantonese and English. Plus, they were exposed to musical influences from many different cultures.

“When I turned on the radio when I was small, I can hear everything from around the world,” Lau says. “So basically, when I listened to something, I thought, ‘Oh that’s so great. Why not write something like that?’ ”

He loved moving to the beat of disco. And he reveals that he’s blown away by the ballads of Céline Dion.

“Why restrict myself to writing one thing?” Lau asks. “I don’t like to restrict myself or confine myself in one genre.”

TD presents Duck Lau at the Jade Music Festival Showcase at 7 p.m. on November at the Vancouver Playhouse. Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia. For information about Jade Music Festival events, visit the website.

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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Pancouver aims to build a more equal and empathetic society by advancing appreciation of visual and performing arts—and cultural communities—through education. Our goal is to elevate awareness about underrepresented artists and their organizations.

The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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Support us

Pancouver strives to build a more equal and empathetic society by advancing appreciation of visual and performing arts—and cultural communities—through education. Our goal is to elevate awareness about underrepresented artists and the organizations that support them. 

The Society of We Are Canadians Too created Pancouver to foster greater appreciation for underrepresented artistic communities. A rising tide of understanding lifts all of us.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.