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Beyond compare

Written By: TOASTIES MONSTER on 六月 30, 2013 One Comment

Twenty years ago today, Asia lost one of its greatest rock stars. We remember the musical genius that was Beyond’s Wong Ka Kui.

I am still free and still myself,

I will forever sing my songs,

No matter how far away I go

– Lyrics from the song Vast Seas, Clear Skies by Beyond, written by

Wong Ka Kui

Less than a month after this picture was taken in Kuala Lumpur in 1993, WongKa Kui passed away in an accident while performing in a live TV show in Japan.

I REMEMBER the day I found out Wong Ka Kui died. A friend of mine, who was also a fan of Beyond, announced to my class, almost tearfully, that Ka Kui had passed away. I remember my usually noisy and chaotic classmates at the time instantly quieting down, and then sitting sombrely at their desks, pondering the depressing news.

We didn’t want to believe it – after all, this was the immortal Beyond we were talking about. Together with his bandmates (brother and bassist Ka Keung, guitarist Paul Wong Kun Jong and drummer Yip Sai Wing), Ka Kui enthralled us with songs about upholding one’s culture and beliefs, living life to the fullest and never compromising on one’s ideals and principles.

Back then, the Internet was non-existent, and the only source of entertainment news we had came from the newspapers. Without the immediacy of Twitter, Facebook, or even the convenience of mobile phones, it was hard for us to verify how true the news was.

But as I read about the tragedy later in the newspapers, about how the 31-year-old had fallen from a stage while filming a show in Japan, how he hit his head and fell into a coma, and how he passed away a few hours later from severe internal bleeding, it finally hit me – the heart and soul of Beyond was gone forever.

To the teenage me back then, Ka Kui’s death was more devastating than even that of Kurt Cobain, who died just a year later. After all, Beyond was one of the greatest, nay, THE greatest rock bands Hong Kong has ever produced. Led by Ka Kui, the band’s music was a shining beacon of light in a music industry filled with generic love songs, manufactured pop stars and unoriginality.

Founded by Ka Kui and Yip in 1983 (Paul and Ka Keung joined the band later), the band’s story is a good old rock and roll tale of hardship, persistence and defiance in the face of familial and financial pressure.

They paid to make debut album Goodbye Ideals out of their own pockets, and the band continued to struggle (despite a strong underground following) until they finally made a breakthrough with 1987’s The Arabian Dancing Girl album. After that, they became an enigmatic mainstay in Hong Kong’s otherwise predictable Cantopop scene.

Being the band’s primary songwriter and lead vocalist, Ka Kui was unsurprisingly the figurehead of the band, and to his credit, he never let success get to his head. Throughout his career, he and the rest of the band held steadfastly to their rock and roll principles, writing songs that highlighted social and political issues, racism, poverty in Africa, and above all, the importance of never giving up on your dreams.

After his death, the remaining members of Beyond chose to carry on as a trio. During an interview with The Star before a concert in Kuala Lumpur back in 1996, Ka Keung explained their decision to continue as a threesome rather than find a replacement for Ka Kui.

“It won’t be easy finding another person who will fit in with our music and style. Since that is the case, we might as well remain a threesome,” said Ka Keung back then.

“It is difficult to express our feelings regarding the loss of a good friend and comrade. But Ka Kui will always be around, in spirit, of course,” Sai Wing added.

Although they managed to release several criminally underrated albums as a threesome, there was always a sense it just wasn’t the same without Ka Kui.

Beyond officially disbanded in 2005, with all three members going on to pursue different musical paths. They recently announced that they won’t be getting back together even for the band’s 30th anniversary this year.

Wong Ka Kui’s death on this very day 20 years ago was a massive blow to Asian music in general, and there has arguably never been a rock band with the influence or popularity of Beyond ever since.

In the West, the list of gifted musicians who died young include Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison. For his impact on Asian music and unwavering rock and roll spirit, Wong Ka Kui surely deserves to be on that list as well.

Wong Ka Keung,Wong Ka Kui, Yip Sai Wing and Paul Wong of Beyond in their heyday.

Greatest hits

Besides being the 20th anniversary of Wong Ka Kui’s death, it has also been 30 years since Beyond was formed. We celebrate the band’s legacy by highlighting the 10 greatest songs they have ever released:

Hoi Fut Tin Hong (Vast Seas, Clear Skies)

This is without a doubt the greatest Beyond song made even more poignant and significant by the fact that it’s one of Beyond’s last ever hits before Ka Kui’s death.

This will always be the song Beyond will be remembered by, and what a magnificent song it is.

From the gloriously soaring melody and meaningful lyrics to Ka Kui’s impassioned vocals and Paul’s magnificent guitar solo at the end, this is the truest testament to Ka Kui’s genius and what a big loss his death was to the Asian music scene.

Guong Fai Shui Yuet (Glorious Years)

Who says Cantopop ballads have to be about love all the time? One of the band’s signature hits, the lyrics touch on racism and Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid in South Africa. Deeply intellectual and moving, this remains one of the greatest songs Ka Kui ever wrote.


One of their biggest hits, this song is further proof of just how different Beyond’s music was from other Cantopop acts. Amani, which is Swahili for “peace”, was a moving anti-war anthem inspired by a trip to Africa with an NGO in 1991, from which they came back deeply affected by the poverty and suffering of the people there.

Dai Dei (Great Land)

Their breakthrough hit. In 1988, this was the band’s biggest hit since they formed in 1983. Included in the band’s third album, Secret Police, the song was Beyond’s biggest hit ever at the time, and won them the first of many Hong Kong musical awards.

Hei Foon Nei (Love You)

Even their love songs were different. Ka Kui wrote this song as a dedication to an ex-girlfriend whom he left in order to pursue his rock and roll dream.

The bridge, in which he acknowledges that he never considered her pain while he selfishly pursued his dream, is one of the most heart-breaking lines in a Beyond song ever.

Zoi Kin Lei Xiong (Goodbye My Dreams)

Considered one of their classics, this song about chasing their rock and roll dream was already a huge hit in the underground scene even before it was included in Secret Police. The song meant a lot to Ka Kui especially, who once famously announced during a concert that he got so emotional after writing the song that he could not sleep for a few nights.

Bat Zhoi Yau Yi (Never Doubt Again)

A soaring declaration of the band’s belief and never-say-die attitude (Paul’s opening guitar riff ranks as one of their most memorable ever), this song was the main theme for Beyond’s Diary, a semi-autobiographical film about the band’s struggle to achieve fame.

Zan Dek Ngoi Nei (I Really Love You)

Despite the title, this is actually a tribute to mothers, and the sacrifices they make for their children. The chorus features Ka Kui singing about how thankful he is to his own mother for encouraging him to never give up on his dream, and to “never give up even after falling down”.

Chiong Seng (The Great Wall)

The lead single from their heavier, much underrated Continue The Revolution album in 1992, this hard-hitting rocker tells the story of an “ancient ruined wall in the Far East” enclosing an “ageing country”.

Said to have been partly inspired by the Tiananmen incident in 1989, this was probably the most politically charged song they ever recorded, made even more powerful by the steely defiance in Ka Kui’s vocals.

Sui Yuet Mou Seng (Years of Silence)

Actually a song Ka Kui wrote for female singer Connie Mak Kit Man in 1988, Beyond re-recorded this song for one of their albums, and the result was a far cry from the original singer’s more folk-ish, standard Cantopop version.

Arguably one of Beyond’s hardest rocking songs, this proved that despite their commercial success, they were still willing to stick to their roots and keep rocking on.


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One Response to “Beyond compare”

  1. ylan laus says on: 7 七月 2013 at 下午9時28分

    Thank You so much the author of this so well written article. I could almost feel my soul being attached to the current of feelings as each sentene is read…..My words can never probably describe how much Ka Kui is missed, but your words say it all, for all of us. Many thanks and please write some more like this when U can. ♥

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