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The Pursuit of Love, Music & Applause in Hong Kong

"The ‘Kong’ in Hong Kong means ‘a port’, but not just for import or export of a product. If I were to describe Hong Kong, it should be thought of as a port that can export and import artwork and culture. I believe that Hong Kong music has always been a big part of Asia as a whole, like Singapore, Malaysia and the Mainland.”

Yusuke Hatano
Co-Founder, Composer and Creative Director, Neo Music Production

After travelling the world, a musician followed love to Hong Kong, held on to every chance that the city offered and through hard work and perseverance, he worked his way up to a winner of the Hong Kong Film Award.

Yusuke Hatano is responsible for the music in the movies you love, including Soul Mate, which garnered 12 nominations at the 36th Hong Kong Film Awards and won the Best Original Film Score. The story of the man behind the music is just as fascinating as the films he has worked on. Born and raised in the US until the age of 10, he returned to Japan before leaving again for Malaysia at the age of 15, and then Singapore two years later. At 18, he hit the road again, this time for Australia, where he met a woman from Hong Kong, who became his wife later. He followed her here and fell in love with both the woman and the city.

A Level Playing Field for Everyone

"I didn't have a job when I first arrived. I just thought I should try. When I came here, I found a job in a month, and so became a full-time musician in Hong Kong in 2011." Hatano attributes his success to luck, and the opportunities that Hong Kong offered to him. "I was a musician, but I’m a composer, too. And I’m Japanese, a foreigner. I happened to have this rareness when I came to Hong Kong at that time. That's why I got lucky, and had so many opportunities, and met a lot of directors, producers and actors." He also points out the active government funding for arts, particularly the film and music industries, as a key contribution to his success, as well as the success of the Hong Kong film industry.

Hatano notes that he might not have such a rapid advancement in his career if he were in Japan. "If I hadn’t come to Hong Kong, I would have had a totally different career, definitely. In Japan, in our culture, we follow more of a tradition of seniors and juniors, and you have to wait for your turn. But in Hong Kong, if you’re good, you can have your chance."

Hatano also believes that opportunities for artists in Hong Kong extend beyond the city itself, thanks not only to its proximity to Greater Bay Area cities like Guangzhou with their own art & culture scenes and venues for performances, but also to the frequent international cultural exchanges which allow artists to demonstrate their work on a wider world stage.

Enjoying Life Like a Native

Along with a thriving career in film and music, Hatano also enjoys a vibrant life here in Hong Kong. After 11 years, he's become very familiar with the local cha chaan teng culture, and has lately embraced Cantonese roasted pork and egg rice as his favourite dish. He also enjoys the beautiful sea views and natural scenery in Tai Mei Tuk, including its green mountains. The local specialties and ambiance help him relax and prepare for a wide range of projects he's currently working on, both here and in Japan. He looks forward to helping promote cultural exchange between the two regions.

When asked what advice he'd give to the young talents just starting out in the city, he speaks about taking every opportunity, strongly convinced that for the young, quantity is more important than quality, both for building experience and for stepping out of their comfort zone. "Don't say no," he says to those considering a career in Hong Kong. "Just try."

Fast facts:

  • Yusuke Hatano started his career as a hotel pianist in Hong Kong in 2011, and now is an acclaimed composer, arranger and performer.
  • In 2017, Hatano was nominated at the 36th Hong Kong Film Awards for his work in the movies Better Tomorrow, Soul Mate, and Mad World and won the Best Original Film Score Award with Soul Mate.
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