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Vancouver songwriter Shinlok retains Hong Kong sensibilities as he sings of love and heartache in English

Shinlok
Shinlok will perform at the Vancouver Hong Kong Fair on Sunday (May 5) in North Vancouver.

There’s a sad story behind Vancouver singer Shinlok’s recently released video for “Worth Less”. It features the Capilano University graduate lamenting lyrically about lost love as he walks around alone at night. As he wails away in his lush song about heartbreak, the video cuts to images of a young woman travelling by herself in a vehicle.

“Last summer, I met a girl,” Shinlok tells Pancouver over Zoom. “We just broke up and went our separate ways.”

It happened in Hong Kong where he had gone to visit his parents. Shinlok still remembers the moment when he received her text. He was on the train at Lai King Station.

“A wave of emotions—sadness, disappointment, and confusion—swept over me,” he relates on YouTube.

Shinlok tried to patch things up without success. That led him to write down how he was feeling. With the help of producer Kei Valentine and video editor Erin Chai (who also did videography with Changomatthew), the music video was born.

Watch Shinlok’s video for “Worth Less”.

On Sunday (May 5), Shinlok will perform “Worth Less” and his other original English-language songs at the Vancouver Hong Kong Fair, He also plans to sing at least one song in Cantonese at the event, which will be at The Shipyards in North Vancouver.

Billed as Canada’s largest Hong Kong festival, the fair will showcase the next generation of artists, artisans, and entrepreneurs with ties to the Asian city. The organizer, HK House, plans to re-create the spirit, humour, cultural traditions, and street-food stalls so familiar to former Hong Kong residents.

Shinlok sings cover songs in Cantonese, but his original compositions are in English.

Shinlok goes from the choir to singing solo

Shinlok was raised in Tsuen Wan in the New Territories of Hong Kong. He concedes that in those days, he was far more passionate about playing tennis than making music. It wasn’t until he moved to Canada as a teenager that he discovered his true calling.

But it didn’t happen immediately. After enrolling at Point Grey Secondary School, Shinlok had trouble finding friends with whom he could play tennis. So, he decided to join the school’s junior choir.

“At that time, I wasn’t really into it,” Shinlok admits.

However, his interest grew when he joined the chamber choir and started learning about vocal jazz. A teacher inspired him to go further, and Shinlok joined the senior choir. He also became a member of a church choir, where he discovered how to use his voice in a professional way.

But Shinlok longed to express himself as a solo singer. In pursuit of this goal, he enrolled in voice performance at Capilano University, earning his graduation certificate this spring. And he began recording his own music on YouTube with the help of his producer, Kei Valentine.

The first song, “Sleepless Night”, was recorded after Shinlok shared a story with Valentine about his experiences with another girl.

“He was, like, ‘That’s lit! How about we make the music for it?’ ” Shinlok reveals. “He’s trying to guide me to make all my recordings together.”

Now, they’re working on creating a “musical diary”.

Shinlok describes his music as having a lo-fi, bedroom feel while remaining within the realm of pop. But he won’t call it Cantopop or Vantopop. That’s because not one of his original compositions on YouTube is in Cantonese.

Listen to “Stay Alive”.

Musical influences come from East and West

However, Shinlok emphasizes that he still brings his Hong Kong sensibilities and culture to his music, even though his songs are in English.

“If I’m a Filipino or I’m from Japan and then I’m singing in English in all my music, it doesn’t mean I’m not from there,” he declares.

His musical influences come from around the world. Shinlok rattles off a long list of Hong Kong favourites, including Eason Chan, Kaho Hung, MC Cheung, and Gareth. T. He’s also fond of the Japanese band One Ok Rock, as well as Joji, Keshi, Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, and Coldplay.

Meanwhile, at the Vancouver Hong Kong Fair, Shinlok plans on singing “Stay Alive”, which is another of his original English-language songs.

“That song is mainly about telling myself not to give up,” he says. “I just graduated and I still have time to be creative and make music.”

Nevertheless, Shinlok knows that his future in music is uncertain. And he wonders if he will be able to devote as much attention to singing six or seven years from now.

“That’s what this song is for—just encouraging myself to keep doing it until the story ends.”

Shinlok will play the open outdoor stage at the Vancouver Hong Kong Fair. The event takes place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday (May 5) at The Shipyards in North Vancouver. For more information, visit the Vancouver Hong Kong Fair website

Listen to Shinlok on Spotify. Follow Pancouver on X (formerly Twitter) @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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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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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.