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Interview: Chairman Bao
(Published: November 06, 2019)

Hong Kong-based Chairman Bao has just released a compellingly brilliant EP, Jazz Ambigrams.

Q: What initially sparked your interest in music and how old were you?

A: What really got me interested was old school hip hop and as a Chinese kid growing up in Hong Kong at the time, it was a bit of an underground thing, and I remember buying my first CD and it was Illmatic by Nas. I was 13 at the time. I must have played that album until the disc broke. The art of sampling in those old school hip hop albums was truly a eye-opener and that inspired my first EP, Chinese Takeout.

Q: Were you surrounded by music growing up? Where there are any musicians in your family?

A: My mom is a classical pianist and piano examiner and I grew up listening to classical music at home and in car rides. She would quiz me on the theoretical aspects of the pieces and talk to me about the structure and history of each composition.

Q: As an artist, how would you say you have evolved over the years?

A: I grew up playing the clarinet in orchestras and played mostly classical pieces. I think now my music is more fluid and multi-genre, like a mix of jazz, funk, boombap and Asian instrumentals. As a musician, I really enjoy playing instruments and play all the instrumentations on Jazz Ambigrams.

Q: What are some of the challenges you have faced, both personally and professionally, in your musical career? How did you overcome them

A: I guess for an independent musician, cracking the digital algorithms for social and streaming platforms take a lot of dedication, commitment and engagement. I have been lucky in having met some great lofi producers and beatmakers on my journey that have welcomed and supported me into the Lofi, chill hop and jazzhop music community. Shout out to Raven, Astro, Metic, Lamchop and Lofivibe!

Q: How would you describe your new EP?

A: Jazz Ambigrams takes the listener through a day of jazz, starting with the upbeat, bossa nova inspired "Carniero," a tribute to the great João Gilberto, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

"Single Origin" is a laid-back, chillhop-vibe track that simulates a morning coffee in a cafe. After coffee, we then move onto "Limewood," a funk-infused track, which was named after a beach-side restaurant in Hong Kong.

"Autumn Leaves," featuring Matt Warlock is a jam-style track with Matt's insane improv on the jazz standard. Moving onto "Monster Mansion" which is a cool jazz instrumental inspired by a stroll through the local mass of concrete buildings on the island, nicknamed Monster Mansion.

Lastly, "Lennon Wall" is an instrumental tribute to all the past and current fighters in Hong Kong, fighting for our freedom, justice and democracy.

Q: What are your goals as a musician?

A: I hope to bring my music to a wider audience and be able to fuse more styles together. A huge inspiration for me is Zac Zinger, this amazing jazz extraordinaire who has seamlessly swim within the jazz fusion genre and one day I hope to be able to do that.

Q: Did you study music in school?

A: I played music all through high school and studied music at A-levels in the United Kingdom but not much after that. Went on to complete a doctorate in education.

Q: Which musicians have inspired you and how?

A: Too many! Definitely I would say Cantopop artists in the 80s and 90s, old school hip hop legends like Nas, Tupac, Biggie and jazz musicians like Erroll Garner, Wes Montgomery, Victor Wooten, Wilton Felder and Jaco Pastorius. They were way ahead of their time in terms of musicality and especially, if you were to map out visually their bass lines, it is fascinating to see their though process and the way they transition and flow.

Q: Are there any artists who influenced you to change your approach to music and how?

A: Jacob Collier and Vulfpeck for sure have been a complete game changer. They have a simple and minimal, yet fully integrated harmonic sound, where each instrument combination contributes and does not dominate. I love that their recordings are done live with real instruments, and very seldom have different takes cut and mixed. In an era of heavily produced, mixed a corrected music, it really was an inspiring move especially for musicians who like to play all of their instrumentation organically.

More Information: http://chairmanbao.bandcamp.com

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