gCON 2019

From physically to spiritually alive: An exploratory study of the voice of Wong Ka Kui
2019-08-23, 11:30–11:45, Central Library Theatrette 1

Passed away in an accident in 1993, Wong Ka Kui (commonly referred to as Ka Kui by his fans) was the lead singer, main songwriter and lyricist of legendary Hong Kong rock band Beyond. In 2003, at the band’s 20th anniversary concerts, Ka Kui “re-appeared” on the stage with his digitized and improvised voice to “sing” a new song “Resist for 20 Years” with the band. The song was then crowned with “Ka Kui’s spirit” to unite protesters in protest scenes. With technological constraints at that time, the audiences could only hear the roughly imitated voice of Ka Kui. Also, as claimed by other members of Beyond for “leaving room for imagination,” the audiences could only see his body moving along the rhythm in his iconic red suit and guitar without a clear face. Even though the audience could barely hear him sing “la-la-la” and “wow,” the audiences knew and believed that it was Ka Kui. In this paper, through reading the background of Beyond and Ka Kui with Mladen Dolar’s ideas on voice, I attempt to understand the strange apparition of Ka Kui – the audiences’ consciousness of his voice in the absence of a physical body – and examine the power and meaning of his uniquely identifiable voice after his death. I argue that neither the physical being nor the actual singing voice of Ka Kui is privileged, instead, his spirit is embedded in the minds of the audiences through his recorded voice.