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Hong Kong Stars Shine in Call Me By Fire: ‘Greater Bay Area Brothers’ Go Viral on Chinese Social Media

The popularity of the ‘Greater Bay Area Brothers’ is part of a bigger trend of Hong Kong entertainers finding renewed success in mainland China.

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The Cantonese-speaking celebrities in the hit show Call Me By Fire have contributed to an increased social media interest in the Greater Bay Area, with some saying a ‘Hong Kong Music Revival’ is blossoming in the Chinese entertainment industry. Entertainers from Hong Kong are finding renewed success in mainland China.

Produced by Mango TV, the Chinese all-male variety show Call Me By Fire (披荆斩棘的哥哥) has concluded its super successful first season. With the last episode airing on October 29 of 2021, the show, starring 33 male celebrities, has brought some well-known Hong Kong actors and singers back into the spotlight in mainland China. On social media, they’ve been nicknamed “The Greater Bay Area Brothers” (“大湾区哥哥”) or “The Group of Greater Bay Area” (“大湾区组”).

The Greater Bay Area, also known as ‘Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area’ (粤港澳大湾区) refers to the Chinese government’s scheme to link the cities of Hong Kong, Macau, and some cities in Guangdong Province including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Zhongshan, Dongguan, Huizhou, Jiangmen, and Zhaoqing, into one major integrated economic and business hub.

In the Call Me By Fire variety show, male celebrities who’ve since long been active in the entertainment industry are competing to form a performance group. The five actors/singers from Hong Kong, including Chen Xiaochun (陈小春/Chan Siu Chun), Zhang Zhilin (张智霖/Cheung Chi-lam), Xie Tianhua (谢天华/Tse Tin-wah), Lin Xiaofeng (林晓峰/Lamb Hiu-fung) and Liang Hanwen (梁汉文/Leung Hon-man), have been in one group together ever since the first episode of the popular reality show.

(Zhang Zhilin, Lin Xiaofeng, Xie Tianhua, Chen Xiaochun, Liang Hanwen)

When group member Xie joked about their ‘too relaxed’ attitude in the first episode – while other people were busy practicing, – he referred to their group as “The Greater Bay Guys” (“大湾仔”). This seeded the concept to the audience, who adopted the term to refer to the team.

Illustration of The Greater Bay Guys, source http://dianyingfengyun.com/

On Chinese social media, the five Cantonese-speaking artists of the group then started to go viral as “The Greater Bay Area Brothers” (大湾区哥哥). Other Cantonese-speaking artists in the show including Huang Guanzhong (黄贯中/Wong Koon-chung) and Ouyang Jin (欧阳靖/Jin Au-Yeung aka MC Jin) also came to be regarded as ‘extra’ members of the group.

Various social media users call the success of the Greater Bay Brothers a sign of a greater “Hong Kong Music Revival” (“港乐复兴”). But the trend goes beyond music alone, as actors and comedians from Hong Kong are also increasingly moving to the mainland industry.

“The Greater Bay” Goes Trending

Recently. the the “Greater Bay Area” (大湾区) term was added to numerous Weibo hashtags relating to the show, garnering many views. Some examples:

The official data analysis tool of Sina Weibo, the Weibo Index (@微指数), shows that from August 12, when the first episode of the show aired, the trend volume for the “Greater Bay Area” (大湾区) started to peak.

Besides the Call Me By Fire show, other news about the Greater Bay area also contributed to this peak.

On August 26, the General Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China announced that Guangdong Province, Hong Kong, and Macau would host the 2025 National Games of China together.

Following the announcement on the closing ceremony of the 14th National Games of China in Xi’an, netizens made the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam, go to the top trending lists with the hashtag “Carrie Lam Accepts the Flag of National Games of China” (#林郑月娥接过全运会会旗#) which received more than 100 million views.

Along with the hashtag created for Lam, another hashtag about the announcement using the ‘Greater Bay Area’ term also went trending that day and received more than 170 million views (“2025 National Games to Be Held in the Greater Bay Area” #2025全运会将在大湾区举办#).

The recent social media trend peak for ‘Greater Bay Area’ occurred on September 21, the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, when a concert was simultaneously held in Shenzhen (main venue) and Hong Kong (sub-venue). The concert was live-streamed on national platforms and shown in Hong Kong by public broadcasters. The hashtag of the concert, “The Full Moon Rises in the Great Bay Area” (#湾区升明月#), received over 1.38 billion (!) views.

The ‘Greater Bay Brothers’ were also invited to perform at the concert, along with many other singers from mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. More than one-third of the songs performed at the concert were in Cantonese. A Hong Kong movies montage of clips also quickly went viral on Weibo, leading Chinese netizens to share memories of watching these movies again and again.

All of these recent trending topics show how much Cantonese songs and movies resonate with netizens in mainland China. Especially for those born in the 1970-1990 era, Hong Kong popular culture has become a part of their childhood memories.

Finding Renewed Success in the Mainland 

The five members of the Greater Bay Group in Call Me By Fire and its extra Cantonese-speaking members are mostly known by the mainland audience because of their songs or for the drama series or films they starred in.

For example, Huang Guanzhong is known as a member of the legendary band Beyond, while Chen Xiaochun became popular because of his role as Wei Xiaobao (韦小宝) in the TV drama The Deer and the Cauldron (鹿鼎记), and for playing “Chicken” Chiu (山鸡哥) in the Young and Dangerous film series (古惑仔系列电影). His songs, Heartless You (算你恨) and Exclusive Memory (独家记忆) were also very popular in mainland China in the early 2000s.

Zhang Zhilin is widely known by audiences in mainland China due to his role in The Legend of the Condor Heroes (射雕英雄传) produced by TVB in 1994. Other TV dramas such as Return of the Cuckoo (十月初五的月光) and Triumph in the Skies II (冲上云霄2) further boosted his popularity in the mainland.

The legendary band Beyond, the first one on the right is Huang Guanzhong.

Chen Xiaochun in “The Deer and the Cauldron” as Wei Xiaobao, and in the “Young and Dangerous” Film Series as “Chicken” Chiu.

Zhang Zhilin in “The Legend of the Condor Heroes” as Guo Jing (郭靖), and in the “Triumph in the Skies II” as Captain Cool.

There was a time when singers or actors in mainland China, including the two other Greater Bay Area Brothers Zhao Wenzhuo (赵文卓) and Zhang Jin (张晋), would move to Hong Kong for better career development. Along with the fast developments of the entertainment industry in mainland China, things have changed. Some Hong Kong artists have now begun to shift their career focus to mainland China.

One example is the Hong Kong actress Sheh Shiman (佘诗曼, also known as Charmaine Sheh), who started her career by winning second runner-up in the 1997 Miss Hong Kong pageant. She stood out for her roles in Return of the Cuckoo in 2000 (partnering with Zhang Zhilin) and War and Beauty (金枝欲孽) in 2004.

Sheh Shiman and Zhang Zhilin in Return of the Cuckoo.

In 2011, Sheh decided not to renew her long-term contract with TVB, and started to focus more on acting in TV dramas in mainland China. In 2018, she starred in the hugely popular The Story of Yanxi Palace and gained many fans in the mainland for her acting skills. She was also nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 24th Huading Awards – China’s equivalent to the American People’s Choice Awards.

Sheh Shiman in the Story of Yanxi Palace.

Another example of a Hong Kong entertainer achieving new career success in mainland China is Wang Zulan (王祖蓝/Wong Cho-lam). As a comedian, Wang has been participating in various variety shows. He is well known by the mainland audience for impersonating different celebrities or story characters.

In March 2018, a group of senior Hong Kong artists set up the Association for Betterment of Hong Kong’s Entertainment Industry in Mainland China (HKEIMC) in Hong Kong in the hope of becoming a bridge between the mainland and Hong Kong, Macau, and promoting more exchanges and cooperation within the entertainment industry.

The HKEIMC also aims to help the development of Hong Kong and Macao artists in mainland China, with Jacky Chan (成龙) as the chairman and Zeng Zhiwei (曾志伟/Tsang Chi Wai) as the executive chairman.

Talking about the founding of HKEIMC, Vice President Wang Mingquan (汪明荃/Wang Ming-chun) said that most of the local residents in the Greater Bay Area already communicate in Cantonese and watch Hong Kong TV programs, suggesting that the cultural differences are relatively small and that there is more room for cooperation.

The entertainment industry in Hong Kong has recently shown more signs of moving to the mainland. Earlier in 2021, for example, Emperor Entertainment Group (EEG), one of the largest entertainment groups in Hong Kong, announced the opening of its Greater Bay Area headquarter office in Guangzhou.

More Greater Bay Coming to China’s Mainstream Entertainment

As Call Me By Fire has geared up the audience’s huge interest in the Greater Bay Area, it is reported that a new variety show featuring the five brothers of the Greater Bay Area named Nights of the Greater Bay Guys (大湾仔的夜) has already started filming.

In addition, audiences interested in Cantonese songs can also expect a new singing show which will be co-produced by Mango TV and TVB. The producer of the show, Wang Zulan, said in a recent interview that he will bring his ten years of experience in the mainland back to Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area at large.

All of these recent developments are signs of a more flourishing future for the entertainment industry in mainland China, presenting more job opportunities for artists from Hong Kong.

“As Hong Kong singers are gathering in mainland variety shows and the Greater Bay Brothers are now going viral across the country, is this the 2021 beginning of the great ‘Cantopop’ revival?”, some Weibo users wonder. It may very well be.

 

By Wendy Huang

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Wendy Huang is a China-based Beijing Language and Culture University graduate who currently works for a Public Relations & Media software company. She believes that, despite the many obstacles, Chinese social media sites such as Weibo can help Chinese internet users to become more informed and open-minded regarding various social issues in present-day China.

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China and Covid19

King of Workout Livestream: Liu Genghong Has Become an Online Hit During Shanghai Lockdown

Liu Genghong (Will Liu) is leading his best lockdown life.

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With their exercise livestreams, Liu and his wife are bringing some positive vibes to Shanghai and the rest of China in Covid times, getting thousands of social media users to jump along with them.

On Friday, April 22, the hashtag “Why Has Liu Genghong Become An Online Hit” (#为什么刘畊宏突然爆火#) was top trending on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Liu Genghong (刘畊宏, 1972), who is also known as Will Liu, is a Taiwanese singer and actor who is known for playing in dramas (Pandamen 熊貓人), films (True Legend 苏乞儿), and releasing various music albums (Rainbow Heaven 彩虹天堂). He is a devout Christian.

Besides all of his work in the entertainment business, Liu is also a fitness expert. In 2013, Liu participated in the CCTV2 weight loss programme Super Diet King (超级减肥王, aka The Biggest Loser) as a motivational coach, and later also became a fitness instructor for the Jiangsu TV show Changing My Life (减出我人生), in which he also helped overweight people to become fit. After that, more fitness programs followed, including the 2017 Challenge the Limit (全能极限王) show.

During the Covid outbreak in Shanghai, the 50-year-old Liu Genghong has unexpectedly become an online hit for livestreaming fitness routines from his home. Together with his wife Vivi Wang, he streams exercise and dance videos five days of the week via the Xiaohongshu app and Douyin.

In his livestreams, Liu and his wife appear energetic, friendly, happy and super fit. They exercise and dance to up-beat songs while explaining and showing their moves, often encouraging those participating from their own living rooms (“Yeah, very good, you’re doing well!”). Some of their livestreams attract up to 400,000 viewers tuning in at the same time.

The couple, both in lockdown at their Shanghai home, try to motivate other Shanghai residents and social media users to stay fit. Sometimes, Liu’s 66-year-old mother in law also exercises with them, along with the children.

“I’ve been exercising watching Liu and his wife for half an hour, they’re so energetic and familiar, they’ve already become my only family in Shanghai,” one Weibo user says.

“I never expected Liu Genghong to be a ‘winner’ during this Covid epidemic in Shanghai,” another person writes.

Along with Liu’s online success, there’s also a renewed interest in the Jay Chou song Herbalist’s Manual (本草纲目), which is used as a workout tune, combined with a specific dance routine. Liu is also a good friend and fitness pal to Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou.

This week, various Chinese news outlets such as Fengmian News and The Paper have reported on Liu’s sudden lockdown success. Livestreaming workout classes in general have become more popular in China since the start of Covid-19, but there reportedly has been no channel as popular as that of Liu Genghong.

The channel’s success is partly because of Liu’s fame and contagious enthusiasm, but it is also because of Vivi Wang, whose comical expressions during the workouts have also become an online hit.

While many netizens are sharing their own videos of exercizing to Liu’s videos, there are also some who warn others not to strain themselves too quickly.

“I’ve been inside for over 40 days with no exercise” one person writes: “I did one of the workouts yesterday and my heart nearly exploded.” “I feel fine just watching,” others say: “I just can’t keep up.”

Watch one of Liu’s routines via Youtube here, or here, or here.

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

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China Music

Weibo is Watching the DJs & Sports Presentation Team at the Winter Olympics Venues

Chinese netizens are not just closely following the athletes, they are also paying more attention to the “atmosphere enliveners” at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

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Chinese netizens are not just closely watching the athletes at the 2022 Winter Olympics – the DJs who are performing at the various venues and their noteworthy song selections have also become a popular topic on social media.

On Feb 8th, the US-born freestyle skier Eileen Gu (谷爱凌, Gu Aling) became the youngest ever gold medalist in freestyle skiing, winning the big air event for China. The American-born Gu has become a superstar in China, and everything related to her is going viral these days, including the songs that were playing when Gu had won gold.

The hashtag “When Gu Ailing Won the Gold, Jay Chou’s Song Huo Yuan Jia is Played” (#谷爱凌夺冠现场放周杰伦的霍元甲#) has received more than 29 million on Weibo. Chinese netizens praised the DJs for the song selection, saying it perfectly captured the scene as the song has a strong rhythm, and is also known as ‘Fearless.’

Before the hashtag about Gu went trending, the DJ team already attracted attention on Chinese social media for the interesting and noteworthy music selection at various events.

During the Ice Hockey Women’s Preliminary Round Group A, when Team US competed against Team ROC, there was a conflict between the two teams and the DJ played a remixed version of Katyusha, a Russian song that became famous during World War II. The dramatic effect of the scene and wartime song pairing made the song’s name (#喀秋莎#) and a video of the DJ trying to ‘make some noise’ on the venue go trending on Weibo with over 53 million views. Many netizens thought the music selection was humorous, with some joking that the DJ was adding oil to a burning fire.

Xie Xiao (@篮球DJ小牛), the ice hockey stadium music director for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics who played the song that day, later clarified on Douyin that the selection of Katyusha was not a response to the conflict. Before that game, he allegedly had already planned to use it because it is a famous song in Russia, and he already played a lot of well-known American songs.

Photo via Xie Xao, @篮球DJ小牛

Another creative song choice by this DJ team that resonated with Chinese netizens occurred during another ice hockey match between Team China and Team Japan, when an American DJ performed Defending the Yellow River on a keyboard. In China, Defending the Yellow River is a famous patriotic song. It was the seventh chapter of the classic Yellow River Cantata, written in 1939 to praise the fighting spirit of the Chinese people (#美国DJ现学后现场弹奏保卫黄河#).

A list of popular hashtags on Weibo relating to which songs are played at the venue of the Winter Olympics also demonstrates that music has become a more relevant and popular part of the Olympics, and is also an attractive component of the event that is encouraging more people, especially younger generations, to watch and participate in the Games.

Xie also said that the team is only allowed to select songs from a specific Winter Olympics music library due to copyright and licensing. The library includes 16000 musical tracks divided into various (sub)categories based on music styles, language, and themes, covering many hit songs and different music from all across the world. On the first event day of speed skating, for example, Adele’s Rolling in the Deep blasted through the speakers.

The pandemic has made the role of so-called ‘atmosphere enliveners’ or ‘vibe teams’ (气氛组, 氛围组) more important. This already became clear during the Tokyo Olympics, where we saw empty stadiums due to coronavirus measures, with DJs creating playlists to motivate athletes in the absence of cheering fans. This shift has also brought more online attention for DJs and other crew members, who would usually stay behind the scenes.

On the venues, the atmosphere is raised by Olympic mascots walking, jumping, and running around the venues interacting with smaller audiences. Meanwhile, the DJs are playing energetic tracks or are creating remixes and mash-ups while producers use different elements at the venue to enhance the audience’s experience.

Li Helin, the deputy manager of the venue operations team at Beijing National Speed Skating Oval, takes care of the event presentation at the venue. He also worked as an MC at the volleyball stadium during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Li has also been in charge of some popular music selections played by the DJs during events involving the China team, including Calorie (卡路里) by the Chinese idol girl group Rocket Girls 101 and Immortal Sound Above Cloud Palace (云宫迅音), the opening theme of Journey to the West, a 1986 TV series that is still considered one of China’s most popular TV dramas. These song selections also were popular on Weibo.

Li Helin, image via Sina.

Li previously said he believed that using DJs to connect with the audiences and to enliven the atmosphere at the venues will become a bigger trend for big sports events in the future. As the standard of sports presentation and fan engagement rises, more new elements, such as spectacular lighting, drones, 3D projects, etc. will also be included: “Sports presentation serves the game, but also adds fresh elements to it.”

Meanwhile, many social media users praise the music crew: “This time, the DJs at the Olympics are really awesome and their song selection is on point.”  “If you don’t know what kind of work you want to do, becoming an Olympic DJ is a good choice,” one Weibo user writes, with others agreeing: “Seriously, if I cannot be an Olympic athlete, then I’ll strive to be an Olympic DJ.”

 

By Wendy Huang

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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