Get us in your inbox

neon light
Photograph: Shutterstock

10 Cantopop songs that will take you for a spin around Hong Kong

Explore the city by ear with these local tunes

Jenny Leung
Edited by
Jenny Leung
Written by
Tommy Yu

Cantopop is a gorgeous mosaic interspersed with hip-hop tracks, classic tracks, and underground beats, with Mirror kicking things up a notch in recent years. As we unequivocally proclaim the intrinsic value of our singing legacy, why don’t we cue up a themed playlist to understand the cradle of Cantopop a little better, with each song narrating a story of our familiar spots? Read on with our musical itinerary, plug into a soundtrack, and start exploring Hong Kong by ear.

RECOMMENDED: Explore the offbeat, underground side of Hong Kong with these tracks.

Central Night (情流夜中環) by Tat Ming Pair (1989)

Central is a massive hive of business towers and rowdy bars, but the contrast between the daytime hustle and late-night hubbub is always there to inspire many. Tat Ming Pair's Central Night initiates a quest for the variegated sensations while feeling wistful and disconnected; with lyrics casting the skyscraper-studded district as hedonistic, fleeting, and urbanely alone. Stare up at the colonnade of buildings if you cruise past Central, with all the thoughts sinking into this beautiful song.

Nathan Road (彌敦道) by Ken Hung Cheuk Lap (2010)

Starting from the edge of Prince Edward and ending in Tsim Sha Tsui, Nathan Road is the first road built by the British administration in the Kowloon Peninsula. It was named after Sir Matthew Nathan and has become one of Hong Kong's busiest roads teeming with rows of shops, restaurants, office and residential buildings, and historic architecture striding on both sides. 

In a city where thousands (or tens of thousands) of people cross paths each day, Ken Hung's Nathan Road becomes the melancholic backdrop, against which a man stumbles into his ex-girlfriend and lapses into bouts of painful reflections. Sino Centre is distinctively added to the lyrics, which is a well-known hub for local vendors.


Hillwood Road (山林道) by Kay Tse (2016)

Hillwood Road is a lively street in Tsim Sha Tsui where bars and restaurants intermingle. The songwriter of Hillwood Road reads this swathe of land as hewing down woods and opening it up for a road, symbolising the rites of passage one may experience while retracing the footprints one has made over the course of time. This song was notably performed by the U.S. Seventh Fleet Band during their Hong Kong Disneyland visit.

Wedding Card Street (囍帖街) by Kay Tse (2008)

Previously tucked away in Wan Chai, Lee Tung Street used to be a local hub for publishing materials and wedding cards, popularly known as ‘Wedding Card Street’. Unfortunately, under developers’ ambitious plans, this storied corner could not dodge the fate of demolition for luxury and high-end premises. Such a move stirred a firestorm among locals, who argued that the loss of the city’s artisanal heritage was inestimable.

The namesake song is about a divorced woman who grieves for the death of her marriage, but many resonate with the song due to the historical context of Lee Tung Street, linking it to the gradual disappearance of local spirits, unable to withstand the changing tides of time.


Next Stop: Tin Hau (下一站天后) by Twins (2003)

Tin Hau is mostly known as a stop on the Island Line, with Hong Kong Central Library or Victoria Park coming to mind. But in Cantonese, ‘Tin Hau’ also means ‘Queen’ or ‘Diva’. 

Next Stop: Tin Hau is the theme song for Diva… Ah Hey, a Hong Kong movie narrating the coming-of-life journey of a songstress. Listen to the light-hearted melody while walking down Paterson Street and Time Square as they appear in the lyrics, and feel how Tin Hau carries the humble dream of an aspiring singer.

Queen’s Road East (皇后大道東) by Lo Ta-yu (1991)

Queen’s Road is the first-ever road built by the British Hong Kong Government. Roping through neighbourhoods for centuries, the regal-sounding street name is Hong Kong’s unique patchwork of Eastern and Western cultures.

The song Queen’s Road East was released in 1991 amidst the anxiety before the handover. Not to disregard its sharp-witted lines and catchy tune, but what the song truly offers are the prophecies of what would happen after the handover.


Below the Lion Rock (獅子山下) by Roman Tam (1979)

Lion Rock is an iconic mountain in Hong Kong, with the craggy rocks tracing the contour of a reclining lion. Nestled in the mountain’s wing were the early mainland refugees from WWII & the Chinese Civil War, from which a generation of hard-working Hongkongers weaved together the soaring metropolis as we know today.

In this song, Lion Rock is a metaphor for Hong Kong’s preserving, hard-working spirits held out against the hardships, and later became an identity badge for Hongkongers who plied tireless efforts to make a living.

On Findlay Road (芬梨道上) by Miriam Yeung (2006)

Findlay Road is a hiking path on the Peak, but definitely not an ideal hangout spot for couples as 'Findlay' is homophonous with the word ‘leaving’ in Cantonese.

Miriam Yeung's Findlay Road is about saying goodbye and breaking up against the backdrop of Hong Kong's iridescent skyline, offering listeners a contrast in imagery between the inward sadness and the dazzling views of our urban sprawl.


Golden Era (黃金時代) by Eason Chan (1998)

Amidst the puzzling gridlines of Causeway Bay, two shopping centres boast the densest traffic – Goldmark and Times Square, both of which inspired the song name Golden Era. Across the noisy streets and secluded alleys, with cars, crowds, and LED displays flickering upon glass windows, one seems to glean what makes Hong Kong a bustling, glamorous, and people-packed metropolis. And this is exactly what the song is about. Capturing everything from meet-ups and cafe-hopping to break-ups and sleeping, all happening in rapid succession, the song embodies the impermanence of a fast-paced world.

Hong Kong (香港地) by Edison Chen, Hanjin Tan, MC Yan (2004)

Hong Kong is a melting pot of people, cultures, and languages. The hip-hop track Hong Kong raps about a collage of local flavours – places, businesses, and attitudes all cooked in one place. The song’s uplifting note emphasises the commonality shared by Hong Kongers. After all, we are more alike than we know. 

Released in 2004, when people began lifting from the pall of the SARS epidemic, this song tells the inclusive, preserving spirits of Hongkongers despite the trauma of the epidemic. The song still resonates today, with listeners revisiting the lyrics to honour the resilience of our times.

    You may also like
    You may also like