Performing to the beat of his own drum under French culture’s influence
Olivier Cong, one of the performers at the 5th edition of Make Music, Hong Kong! in 2022, is a Hong Kong musician and composer. Apart from
his love for music, he also shares with us how French culture has impacted his work and the influence of his French-speaking father.
The “Cong Shoe” family
in Mauritius, Olivier’s father is a native Francophone. The special surname of “Cong Shoe” registers the family
history and symbolises French culture.
When Olivier was
little, he was immersed in French culture. “I love reading BD (Bande dessinée, the French comics), Tintin, Astérix, Lucky Luck,
Gaston…”, said Olivier, trying to recollect his childhood. He also spent some of his holidays at the museums in France.
Despite his love
towards French culture, his French-learning journey is not as easy as one may expect. Olivier claims he is now weak in the French
language. "I know French is an important language now. However, when I was younger, I didn’t put enough effort into learning
French”, said Olivier with waves of laughter, “I should have learnt better."
Since Olivier attended local schools growing up, the chance of practising French is quite limited. Therefore, from the age of 6 to 15, when
he was studying at Alliance Française de Hong Kong, he would try to learn as much as possible from the teachers and his classmates. Being
in an immersive environment is as crucial as collective and cooperative learning in acquiring languages. He found it learning French in
small groups has helped him tremendously as he is more focused on the materials and has better interaction with classmates who share the
same goal. Today, the whole family is still connecting with us and borrows books from our library from time to time.
Visit AF French Library
an extensive collection of media in French as well as in translation and discover our French-Chinese bilingual magazine Paroles.
French Music and Olivier’s Music
Among all the French cultural activities that Olivier participated in, French
music played one of the most important parts in developing his artistic journey. Growing up in a household which adores French culture,
listening to French music is almost always a daily activity for Olivier.
With the many French musicians that were introduced by his father, including Léo Ferré, Erik Satie and Claude Debussy, Yann Tierson is
Olivier’s favourite. Known for his music in “Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain”, Yann Tiersen is a French musician who
plays minimal and avant-garde music.
However, it is not the music in Amélie that strikes Olivier the most, but the music from his album “Le Phare”. “Le
Phare” is minimalistic but diverse. Yann not only uses distinctive French instruments like accordions, but he also uses unusual
instrumentations including a bicycle wheel, typewriters and even saucepans. His “sound” has made Olivier realise that it is not
necessary for music to be complicated, even simple arrangements can be expressive. Inspired by Yann, one can often find unique sounds
in Olivier’s music, for example, the sound of thunder, rain and waves, etc.
Other than the “French sound”, Olivier also appreciates the mixture of culture in Yann Tiersen’s music. Yann not only
loves to play around with a variety of sounds but also in different languages. As a person who bridges French and Hong Kong culture, it has
always been a priority for Olivier to explore his identity. In the attempt to find his “sound”, Olivier has written songs in
Chinese, English and of course, French.
Olivier in Make Music, Hong Kong!
In the fifth edition of Make Music, Hong Kong!, Alliance Française de Hong Kong
is excited to invite Olivier as one of the performers to celebrate the French Fête de la Musique. “I told my dad that I was invited by
Alliance Française, but he is a quiet person. He said ‘good’. This is our way to interact.”
“When I create a show, I usually think of how the audience perceives and receives the messages. I am quite sensitive in this kind of
sentiments of audiences and myself.” This is how Olivier describes and differentiates himself and the other artists.
During the period of the festival, Olivier was fully booked by other work appointments, but still, he decided to create something new for
our audience. Instead of singing and working on the soundscapes only, he immersed piano, electric sets and documentary visuals of Hong Kong
to present his special panoramas of Hong Kong at the moment.
Olivier believes there are no shortcuts when learning music or French. One must through the efforts, expertise and determination. In his
philosophy, if one would like to be successful at achieving something, one must pursue it with passion. “A career is a profession,
and a profession is the pursuit of passion”, said Olivier.
In the near future, he is planning to bring his surname “Cong Shoe” back to life, as it speaks to his identity. While the search
for his identity continues, one of the ways to explore it would be with an album. Let’s await with pleasure
Learn French with Alliance Française
Share the learning story of Olivier with your classmates and friends to spread his melody of learning
French with Alliance Française de Hong Kong!
Regular courses are open to students of different French levels and ages, from Kids, to Teens and Adults.
We also welcomes Macau students to register for our online French courses. Bon courage !
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