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Anita Mui: Remembering a Cantopop Star



When Cantopop star Anita Mui Yim-fong died from cancer a decade ago, her obituary dominated headlines in Hong Kong. Now, a series of events are commemorating the singer, who sold millions of records and performed tirelessly until her death at the age of 40.

Embodying her home city’s philosophy of working hard to build a career from scratch, Ms. Mui first shot to fame in 1982 after winning a singing award for new talent in Hong Kong. She went on to make more than 30 albums and give a total of 292 live concerts in her career – still a record for a Chinese female singer.

In addition to her singing career, Ms. Mui starred in more than 40 movies, including the 1988 film “Rouge.” Co-starring fellow Cantopop star and actor Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, the movie won her best-actress prizes at some of Asia’s most influential film festivals, including Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards, the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Asia-Pacific Film Festival.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the deaths of both Ms. Mui and Mr. Cheung, who committed suicide by jumping from Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel on April 1, 2003, at the height of the city’s SARS crisis. Ms. Mui died from cervical cancer that December.

According to filmmaker and TV host Eric Tsang Chi-wai, who is organizing a memorial concert for Ms. Mui on Dec. 30 along with singer Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, it was a tribute event to Mr. Cheung in early April that inspired them to commemorate Ms. Mui with a show.

“Anita has always been the daughter of Hong Kong,” Mr. Tsang told the Journal. “We have never forgotten her and her spirit in the past 10 years.”

The concert will take place at Hong Kong’s harborside convention center, but organizers declined to disclose a list of performers and attendees. Mr. Tsang did say, however, that they would give “priority to Anita’s good friends who’ve spent time with her in the past.”

One performer who may be on the lineup is Tony Leung Chiu-wai, who indicated this month at a press conference that he would be up for performing if invited. “I knew [Anita Mui] for a long time. I miss everything about her,” he said. “It’s really up to Jacky [Cheung, the concert organizer]—I’d need to pick up singing again if he asks me to sing a song.”

Mr. Leung collaborated with Ms. Mui while she was alive, performing a duet with the singer at a Hong Kong charity show in 1995.

Other memorial events for Ms. Mui are already taking place in the city. At the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, for instance, pioneering local fashion designer Eddie Lau is the subject of a retrospective of his work that includes more than 70 of his designs. Among them, some 20 are costumes that were worn by Ms. Mui on stage.

Mr. Lau, who has worked in Hong Kong’s fashion industry for more than 50 years, is the man behind some of Ms. Mui’s best-known looks, designing them to be performed with particular songs. The pair collaborated closely for more than two decades, and their bond moved him to push back his museum exhibition by a year, to coincide with 10 years after Ms. Mui’s death.

“We were like brother and sister,” said Mr. Lau. “She really trusted me.”

Both had difficult childhoods, a factor that brought two closer together.

“I was abandoned by my family and forced to be an apprentice since 11,” Mr. Lau said. “Anita also had to work very hard in order to earn a living when she was very young. Both of us didn’t have a childhood or adolescence at all, which meant we had to be perfect at our jobs.”

Mr. Lau remembers Ms. Mui at her final concert, a month before her death, in which she sang the melancholic “Song of Sunset” while wearing a wedding gown she had asked him to design for her.

“She wanted to be married to the stage,” he said. “It’s such a sad thing to see a woman with her wedding gown all by herself. She was so perfect—but without having a true love.”

Source: Wall Street Journal
Tags: actor: leslie cheung, hong kong, singer: anita mui
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