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CollectionsApplauding Hong Kong Pop Legend: Roman TamHong Kong Pop's Role Model: Roman Tam
Hong Kong Pop's Role Model: Roman Tam

“As the cigarette smoke slowly drifts, I look back on my life. I have braved the storms, and here I am still standing.”
(Translation of extracted lyrics from Braving The Storm, published in 1985. Composed by Choo Seho; lyrics by Siu Mei.

Roman’s sonorous voice, crisp pronunciation, exceptional singing techniques, multi-styled stage look and charismatic dance moves remain timeless icons in Hong Kong’s pop music culture even in this day and age. His career spanned more than three decades, and the name Roman has become synonymous with true talent in the hall of fame. With his pre-eminent status, Roman is known as the “Godfather of Cantopop”.

Roman was a symbolic figure as Cantopop entered its golden era: he was a key driver in the development of the genre and invested tireless efforts in raising this local and shared cultural form to a higher level. The songs that Roman performed, such as Bright Future and The Romantic Swordsman from the 1970s, were seminal in establishing the standing of Cantopop in Hong Kong’s music culture, while his release of concept albums created the art of specialisation in the genre. What’s more, Roman worked with a number of different orchestras around the world, perhaps most memorably the Voronezh State Philharmonic Orchestra, while in the 1990s he teamed up with the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra to perform popular Cantopop songs at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre in an effort to elevate the genre to a level that demanded appreciation as an art. His dedication to merging different cultures was phenomenal. Roman was also an active philanthropist, performing at charity fundraising concerts in Hong Kong, on the mainland and other locations around the world as his way of giving back to society. The countless awards he received serve as testimony to the significant contribution he made both to the performing arts and to the community. Roman was named one of the “Ten Outstanding Young Persons” in 1983, while in 1988 he was honoured with the “Singer of the Year (Pop Group) Award” from the Hong Kong Artists' Guild in their first “Artists of the Year Awards”.

Alongside his focus on the development of his own career, Roman also put great store by art education and was always glad to give a hand to aspiring newcomers and act as a role model for them. In 1981, he established “Paiyishe” – and funded it on his own – to groom talented youngsters with a passion for the performing arts, giving them the opportunity to perform in the Cantonese musical Legend Of The White Snake. He was always open to acting as a mentor for other artistes so that he could pass on his skills and nurture talent for the Hong Kong pop scene.

Roman performed a great many wonderful songs throughout his life, and he will be remembered for several classic hits that will always be on the lips of Hong Kong people. The trajectory and the detours of his artistic journey mark the development not only of Hong Kong’s pop scene, but also of local culture. Braving every storm, he went beyond a promising future to fulfil all of his potential. The sound of our applause will continue to ring out in praise of his amazing voice and dauntless spirit. Roman’s attitude to life will continue to encourage and inspire us from under the Lion Rock.

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