My Favourite Music #6: My Little Airport


My Little Airport

My Little Airport (MLA) is the most influential independent music duo in Hong Kong. They began in 2004 with home-made lo-fi music composed by Lam Ah P and sung by Nicole Oujain. Some of their music featured poems written and recited by their friend Ah Suet.

Their unorthodox music is considered a genre of its own. It is characterised by simple tunes accompanied by soft singing and sometimes synthesised arrangement; ironic, humorous and localist lyrics that cover topics from politics, arts, literature, sex, social issues and ideology etc. Although they began in the alternative music scene, MLA became so popular that their music was adopted in movies, advertisements and documentaries. Many fans in Mainland China would climb the Great Firewall to reach out to their music, which was banned in China for the obvious reason. During the height of the Hong Kong Anti-Extradition Protest in 2019, their concert Taste of Tears turned into a mass anti-government rally, where the audience chanted slogans that are now deemed subversive under the National Security Law in Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the concert has now been taken off YouTube.

In this blog, I'll again translate the lyrics and poems of some of my favourites, as well as brief intro on few others.

Victor, Fly Me To Stafford

Victor, Fly Me To Stafford was from their debut album in 2004. In the beginning, MLA songs were mostly about stories and trivial matters among themselves and their friends, and this is one of their finest examples.

Victor, Fly Me To Stafford

music and lyrics by Lam Ah P

This is the last song I write for you
This is the last night I think of you
Your name is Victor Ching, how do you do?

I phoned you this morning you couldn’t hear me
I sent you letter you couldn’t receive
It’s my favourite game, but I have changed

* It’s too late to say I miss you Victor Ching
And you are on your way to Stafford in UK
I know it’s too late to say I’m fond of you
You’ve got a girlfriend from Singapore who you didn’t like before

I love you when you no longer love me
I need you when you no longer need me
You wanted me, but you have changed already

Repeat *

Pak Tin Shopping Centre & Lai Chi Kok Park

Pak Tin Shopping Centre, together with Lai Chi Kok Park, were two short numbers (around a minute each) featuring poems in French. Pak Tin and Lai Chi Kok are two ordinary working class neighbourhoods in Hong Kong where Ah P grew up and studied. These contrast to the French language, which is considered a high-class and artistic language studied and understood by few privileged people in Hong Kong. The poems depicted the struggle of adolescence in sex and relationship.

白田購物中心 Pak Tin Shopping Centre

music by Lam Ah P, poem by Ah Suet

Enfin, il est arrivé
   Finally it happened
Apr è les trois questions
   After the three questions
Le premier fois
   The first time
La première personne
   The first person
Tu es si peur comme un petit lapin
   You're so scared like a little rabbit
Tu es si timide comme une petite fille
   You are so shy like a little girl
Est-il trop vite?
   Is it too fast?
Y-a-t-il trop d'amour?
   Is there too much love?
Tu ne sais plus
   You don't know anymore
Tu ne sais rien
   You know nothing
Jusqu' à quelqu'un t'a dit
   Until someone told you
'il y a toujours le premier fois'
   'there is always the first time'
'ne triste pas.'
   'don't be sad.'

荔枝角公園 Lai Chi Kok Park

music by Lam Ah P, poem by Ah Suet

Chaque fois, quand je te vois, je pleure.
   Every time when I see you, I cry
Toutes les petites choses me font pleurer
   All the little things make me cry
Et après toutes les larmes
   And after all the tears
J'ai deja oublié pourquoi je t'aime
   I've already forgotten why I love you
Le temp est arrivé
   The time has come
Il faut que j'te dise 'je m'en vais'
   I have to tell you 'I'm leaving'
Pak Tin Estate before its redevelopment in 2014
Lai Chi Kok Park

Mei Foo's Gainsbourg and Pak Tin's Jane Birkin

Mei Foo's Gainsbourg and Pak Tin's Jane Birkin was almost an autobiography of MLA. This poem referred to the French musicians Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin. MLA, like many other free spirited artists in Hong Kong, were trapped in the commercialism of the financial hub and the cruel reality of this cultural desert.

美孚根斯堡與白田珍寶金 Mei Foo's Gainsbourg and Pak Tin's Jane Birkin

music by The Lee's, poem by Lam Ah P

我們在炎熱與抑鬱的夏天 無法停止抽煙
We can't stop smoking in the vicious and blue summer
我們在炎熱與抑鬱的辦公室 無法停止寫詩
We can't stop writing poems in the vicious and blue office
We are Mei Foo's Gainsbourg and Pak Tin's Jane Birkin
金錢對於我們來說 輕如鴻毛
To us, money is as light as feather

We are the last group of poets who lack social skills in Hong Kong
We are performers, thinkers
We are travellers lost in the forest
在同樣不仁慈的善良與邪惡之間 與潮人抗衡
In between the equally unkind good and evil, contending with the hipsters

We are at the Lingnan Garden, the peak of Mei Foo
在公園、電影院、商場 送別所有成長的記憶
In the park, the cinema, the shopping centre, farewell all the memories of growing up

We drink herbal tea and listen to music
Puffing smoke into the sky
日出日落 我們如在巴黎法國
Sunrise and sunset, as if we're in Paris, France

我們在炎熱與抑鬱的夏天 無法停止抽煙
We can't stop smoking in the vicious and blue summer
我們在炎熱與抑鬱的辦公室 無法停止寫詩
We can't stop writing poems in the vicious and blue office
Serge Gainsbourg
Jane Birkin

Sorrowful Procurement

Sorrowful Procurement (or this remix version) had an exhilarating musical arrangement, but the lyrics were about the opposition towards consumerism. Follow on from the above, it expressed the inevitable struggle under unfettered capitalism and on how people lost their ideals along the way.

悲傷的採購 Sorrowful Procurement

music and lyrics by Lam Ah P

訂了一季 又到下季
Ordered for one season, and then the next season comes
Why do people become slaves to work when they grow up
Cannot develop on their favourite work
我的感覺 逐漸流逝
My feeling fades away
I once talked about how to appreciate the beauty of the world
Now I only know how to spend during holiday

* 如果繼續這樣 我還是我嗎 我還喜歡我嗎
If it continues like this, am I still me? Do I still like me?
或者我應該死去吧 總好過變得更差
Or should I die? It's better than being worse
如果繼續這樣 你還願意嗎 和我奏著吉他
If it continues like this, would you still like to play the guitar with me?
日子不應該這樣吧 而現實就是這樣可怕
Life shouldn't be like this, but the reality is scary

Repeat *

To Those Inside the Train at Admiralty MTR Station

To Those Inside the Train at Admiralty MTR Station was a satire based on the peak hour crowd at the busy metro station where four metro lines meet. Wealth disparity is extreme in Hong Kong, especially between those who own their home (on-boarded) versus those who don't. This song was a criticism against the selfishness of many rich Hong Kongers. I always think of this song every time I visit the busy station.

給金鐘地鐵站車廂內的人 To Those Inside the Train at Admiralty MTR Station

music and lyrics by Lam Ah P

Once you were one of those who were squeezed on the station platform
當時你覺得入了車廂內的人 有責任盡量前行
At that time, you felt that people who entered the train had a responsibility to move forward as much as possible
Now you are one who get inside the train
但你忘記了四班車之前 你的月台人身份
But you forget that four trains ago, your status as a platform person

You change when the opportunity arrives
You no longer consider the people behind you
Once you were a person on the platform with ideals
Full of compassion for the platform people

Those inside the train at Admiralty MTR station
Why don't you move further in?
You were once squeezed on the platform
Used to hope that the people in front moved further in
But as time flies like arrows, as the sun and moon shuttle, as situation changes
After four trains your opportunity arrives
Once you get on the train you don't move further in
History will not forgive you
You were once squeezed on the platform and had your ideal
What was your ideal?
People said the ideal was on the opposite shore
But you know your ideal is to push the people in front to move further in
入啲 再行入啲
Further, and move further in

Change happens the moment you enter the train door
You find that two more stops only, better not move too deep inside
So you stand near the door and think it'll be easier to get off
No longer move forward and sacrifice for other people
This event happens every day
Peak hour at Admiralty MTR station platform

Selling CDs at Sino Centre

Selling CDs at Sino Centre was a user guide on how to sell second hand CDs. Sino Centre is a shopping centre popular with young people in Hong Kong. During the 80s and 90s, there were few dozens record stores in the shopping centre. For me, I'm still hanging on to my hundreds of CDs, although I don't have a CD player at home anymore (I'm not ready to burn out my dreams yet).

去信和賣碟 Selling CDs at Sino Centre

music and lyrics by Lam Ah P

In two years time
One day when you almost reach 30
You will visit second hand record stores for one last time
賣去過往十數年 買落的幾百張唱片
Selling hundreds of records that you bought over the past decade
At this moment, you need to sell these with a bit of skills

The trick is to know that there are two kinds of record stores
One quotes a different price for each CD
The other gives a single quote for a stack of CDs
You should go to the former first
It will not take all the CDs
Then sell the remaining ones to the later

The importance of this sequence
Not only the overall price can be doubled
It can also make you forget the present as much as possible
Because losing all CDs at once
would lead to a feeling of burning out all the dreams
Busy analysing prices will help make this feeling disappear
Shops at Sino Centre

A Night of Foot Massage in Guangzhou

A Night of Foot Massage in Guangzhou told the story of Ah P meeting a masseur in Guangzhou. The poor migrant worker had never seen the sea or could not understand why the rich city folks would want to learn farming. Consider that Guangzhou is not far away from the sea or Hong Kong, it lamented the inequality and questioned the meaning of life in general.

廣州足沐一夜 A Night of Foot Massage in Guangzhou

music and lyrics by Lam Ah P

What is life?
I don't know tonight
Only wish you not be sad
Whatever means nothing

I won't come again tomorrow
Reluctant to use up too much happiness
I only know whatever I do tonight
You'll forget me by tomorrow

You said you had never left Guangzhou
You said you had never seen the sea
"Is Hong Kong very prosperous?", you asked
"What does the sea in Hong Kong look like?", you asked

你話 上年返鄉下種田之後
"After I went back to the countryside to farm last year", you said
"I think people should stay in the city"
我話 香港有啲年青人開始學種田
"Some young people in Hong Kong are now learning to farm", I said
"Hong Kong is so prosperous", you said
"Why would anyone farm?"

What is great effort?
If the goal is already wrong
Does anyone here know
The harder you try, the more you go wrong

What is life?
I don't know tonight
Is there anyone here
who can tell me everything

Beautiful New Hong Kong

Beautiful New Hong Kong was the theme song of the movie Golden Chicken 3, a comedy about the romance between a prostitute and a jailed gangster. On the surface, the song followed the movie plot on how the gangster found himself in an unfamiliar city after spending a long time in jail. But of course this song was about the "New Hong Kong", which was becoming more strange and unfamiliar to the many Hong Kongers who grew up in the city under the British rule.

The song was nominated for the best original song in the 34th Hong Kong Film Award. During the award ceremony, MLA performed the song and added God Save the Queen at the end. This was broadcasted live in China and MLA was criticised by the Chinese as a colonial sympathiser.

美麗新香港 Beautiful New Hong Kong

music and lyrics by Lam Ah P

Since you decide to leave
No one knows how miserable I am
No more courage to stay at the party
I dare not greet my friends

Since you left and not turning back
The green hills and waters are no longer the same
There's no more reason to get up early
There's no more pillow to fall asleep on

There is only one kind of nostalgia in this world
That is at times without you
This Hong Kong is no longer my turf
Just pretend I'm travelling overseas

Since the dream can no longer be sought
I learned to stay poor with no belongings
Fate makes me learn to strive
But I only know the absurd

There is only one kind of nostalgia in this world
When you are not beside me
This Hong Kong is no longer my turf
Just pretend I'm drifting overseas

I know it comes to the end
Why keep worrying
This world is no longer my turf
Just pretend I'm drifting in the universe

Tonight We Sleep at Connaught Road Central

Tonight We Sleep at Connaught Road Central was released during the 2014 Umbrella Revolution, where thousands of protesters occupied the main roads in Hong Kong for over two months in protest of the Chinese government decision to stifle democratic reform in Hong Kong, by handpicking all nominees of the Chief Executive election, and retaining the Legislative Council functional constituencies which were made up of tiny number of eligible voters. The protest ended in failure with no concession from the government, but it seeded activism in many Hong Kong youths, which ultimately led to the even bigger Anti-Extradition Protests in 2019.

今夜到干諾道中一起瞓 Tonight We Sleep at Connaught Road Central

music and lyrics by Lam Ah P

Tonight we sleep at Connaught Road Central
This is my most affordable rent
Don't ask if it will change the future
At least tonight you and I are together

Tomorrow let's go to sleep at Dundas Street
I know that I may be woken up in the middle of the night
Everywhere people are awake
I'm only afraid there's no toilet nearby

Insomnia is only because of the street lights
Anti-riot police brings our heart closer
Can the microphone of the organiser be turned down for a minute?
I can't hear my lover's voice

I will remember the formation of the triad thugs in front of us
There was a night when the tear smoke made me see you more clearly
And the girl standing at the front in Lung Wo Road
Footprints running across the lawn

I'm sorry to this citizen
我知我阻礙你 很不忿
I know I'm blocking you and you are angry
But I'm doing this for the next generation
I am not ashamed

Tomorrow morning when the ground is cleared perhaps I'll leave
然後 晚上又來瞓
Then in the evening I'll again come back to sleep
Protesters occupied Connaught Road Central, a main thoroughfare in Hong Kong
Protesters facing the police at Lung Wo Road

Miss Ng

Miss Ng was released during the 2019 protests. It told the story of a middle age woman who got herself involved in the street protest on the day of the general strike. The song is now too sensitive and MLA did not include it in their album. The song may very soon be taken down from YouTube too, so take a listen while it is still available.

吳小姐 Miss Ng

music and lyrics by Lam Ah P

吳小姐畢業之後 做咗銀行十幾年
Miss Ng worked in the bank for over a decade after she graduated
Recently she became single
On the day of the general strike, she went to Nathan Road by herself
黃昏嘅時候 成條馬路都係黑衫嘅年輕人行嚟行去
In the evening, the whole street was full of young people wearing black walking back and forth
Tear gas was fired in Tsim Sha Tsui and other districts
佢一路行 一路睇吓live
She watched live broadcast while she walked
Listened to people on the street talking about their deployment strategy

It went dark soon after
行到豉油街 經過兩間日本嘢
She walked to Soy Street passing two Japanese restaurants
She thought of getting in and eating something under air-con
But it felt like supporting shops that did not join the strike
At the end she hesitated a bit
And bought two mandarins from the hawker stand and went back to the demonstration area
Sitting on the roadside at the cross junction
There was a breeze while she ate

It was at that moment when she sat down
She had never enjoyed it so much before

While eating, someone asked her if she'd want some water
Someone asked her to go to Sham Shui Po police station to support the protesters
有個女仔指住太子方向 話一直行就會到
A girl pointed towards Prince Edward and said, "keep walking and you'll get there"
Miss Ng walked a bit and thought it's too far away
So she rode the metro

去到現場 有人叫佢唔好行咁前
When she arrived, someone told her not to go too far in front
然後 佢第一次 親眼見到催淚彈
Then, for the first time, she saw the tear gas
佢跟住大家 向後褪 開遮 踎低 行返前
She followed the crowd, retreat backwards, opened umbrella, squatted down, moved forward again
來來回回 幾粒催淚彈之後 佢有種從未試過嘅感覺
Back and forth after few tear gas bombs, she had a feeling like never before

時間突然好慢 周圍好靜
Time suddenly went very slowly, the surrounding was very quiet
佢覺得呢個瞬間 最前線嘅人係自己
She felt at that moment, the person in the front line was herself
The person dismantling the fence with a spanner at the back was herself
On the side, the person scolding the neighbours not to take photos was herself
In far away, the person in jail was herself

Soon after, people said to go to another police station
Miss Ng smoked a cigarette while sitting under the traffic lights

It was at that moment when she sat down
She had this indescribable emotion

At the end, anti-riot police rushed out
吳小姐狂跑嘅時候 竟然跑得快過晒所有嘅人
Miss Ng ran madly, and surprisingly she ran faster than everyone else
佢決定 以後都出嚟
She decided to always come out in future
Protesters in Hong Kong during the Anti-Extradition Law Protests in 2019

Other songs

There are many other songs that I would highly recommend, and here are the links to some of these:

  • 和陳五msn MSN with Chan Ng - a classic MLA style of musical arrangement, the song was released in 2007 about two friends chatting nonsense over MSN messenger. It was later adopted by the movie Candy Rain (clips in the MV).
  • 社會主義青年 Socialist Youth - a humorous song about Ah P who was so poor that he could only afford to bring the girl to the sea shore on a date. He then described himself as a socialist youth who saw the need for the world to change, but only hoped not to be unemployed for over half a year.
  • 北歐是我們的死亡終站 Northern Europe is Our Death Terminus - an ironic song about two friends discussing the best way to commit suicide and decided that frozen to death would be the best. They then had an idea to travel around the world first and to finish in Finland to "freeze the death" at 29. With such a goal, they became hopeful and happily started saving money for their plan.
  • 直到人類滅亡 Until the End of Mankind - another short poem from 2011 about a couple discussing their plan ahead of the Mayan doomsday in 2012. The plan included travelling to Paris, sipping hot chocolate in Champs-Élysées, drawing in front of Oscar Wilde's tomb, and living in modernity like Charles Baudelaire. It was an exquisite and romantic poem and music.
  • 悼二零一二年的夏 Mourning the Summer of 2012 - a solemn poem mourning the death of Li Wangyang, a Chinese dissident labour rights activist whose suspicious death in jail was originally claimed by authority as suicide and later an accident.
A Hong Kong protester holding a picture of Li Wangyang
  • 憂傷的嫖客 The Sad Brothel Client - similar to Foot Massage in Guangzhou, this song told a story of a brothel client who could not stop crying when the prostitute looked very much like his ex. He only stopped crying when she asked for more tips.
    From not knowing each other to having this heartfelt conversation and then back to normal
    This 40-minute relationship was like a dream. Life experience was so unpredictable
  • 濕濕的夢 Wet Wet Dream - a funny song that compared having sex to exercising. I'd rather not translate the lyrics here haha.
  • 菊花的味道 The Scent of Chrysanthemum - another funny song with sexual references. Again I'm not going to translate or explain it here. You can google what chrysanthemum means in Chinese.
  • 羅曼蒂克 Romantic - a humorous song about a rogue who wanted to touch a woman's breasts.
  • 土瓜灣情歌 Love Song from To Kwa Wan - Ah P used to live in To Kwa Wan, an old district in Hong Kong undergoing rapid gentrification. This song from 2014 talked about the uncertainty faced by him
    Only wish that station in the new Shatin-Central line can be built slower
    I can't afford any rent increase
    The To Kwa Wan MTR station was finally opened in 2021.
To Kwa Wan MTR station
  • 給親戚看見我一個人食吉野家 My Relative Saw Me Eating at Yoshinoya By Myself - it was an awkward situation when Ah P bumped into his relatives while having a meal at Yoshinoya by himself. In case you don't know, Yoshinoya is a Japanese fast food chain famous for its beef rice bowl.
    My relative saw me eating at Yoshinoya by myself
    I almost wanted to say you got the wrong person
    But I now learnt how to say few courtesy words
    Though I really wanted to give up the beef bowl and rush back home
    If I saw him sooner I would have ordered takeaway
    But he already sat down with his wife
    If I pretended that I had to save the seat for my companion
    Even I found this excuse too lame
    When this song was released, it attracted a response from Yoshinoya on Facebook telling MLA not to be too pessimistic and perhaps they could encounter their other half at Yoshinoya. Nice marketing job!
Beef rice meal at Yoshinoya
  • 年輕的茶餐廳老闆娘 Young Café Owner - it was a lovely ballad about a secret admirer of a young café owner and he visited the café often just to see her.
  • 驗孕的下晝 Pregnancy Test Afternoon - while waiting for the result, he started having this imaginary talk with his future child, although admitting that he didn't know the mother well and hoped for a negative result.
  • 下亞厘畢道 Lower Albert Road - a pleasant waltz about two people on their first date.
  • 詩歌舞街 Sycamore Street - another song with reference to a local street in Hong Kong. This song was about him bumping into his ex, who already got married and had a baby. They walked and talked along the way. While she already moved on, he was still the same as before.
Lower Albert Road
Sycamore Street
Edward Leung
This popular slogan is now banned in Hong Kong

Sorry this is a lengthy blog and I tried to squeeze in as many songs as possible, but there are still many that I missed. As you can see, My Little Airport is a polarising group in Cantopop and many of their songs are politically themed. By reading this blog or answering Taiwan as an independent country in the COTW quiz, you are breaking the Chinese law and if you plan to travel to China or Hong Kong in future, you should reconsider.

Level 66
Jun 17, 2022

(it's yako)