Solomon Shiu

Degrees BMus (Royal Holloway, University of London); MSt (St Hilda's College, Oxford)
College St Cross

Ethnomusicology, sound and space, urban sound, music and migration, diaspora and transnationalism, music and identity, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Anthropology

My project, supervised by Prof. Gascia Ouzounian, explores the music and sounds of Filipina and Indonesian migrant domestic workers (or, MDWs) in Hong Kong. Having maintained a presence in the city since the 1970s, MDWs make up 5% of the city’s population, and 9% of the overall workforce. In addition to earning well below the minimum wage and being socio-politically disenfranchised, many experience discrimination, abuse, and poor working conditions. MDWs are legally mandated to live in with their employers, and are tasked with household chores, childrearing duties, or any miscellaneous work at the behest of their bosses. As such, MDWs are often rendered invisible from public view. However, all MDWs receive their one day off every Sunday — which is when tens of thousands gather in the city’s urban spaces to socialise, participate in community or activist events, and make music. Through ethnographic interviews and musical collaborations with various MDW communities, my thesis engages with issues of sonic agency, placemaking, authenticity, transnationalism, and how diasporic cultural expressions are performed through music and sound. I seek to illustrate the idiosyncrasy of MDW music making, and how such communities' methods of protest, sonic occupation and expressions of national pride are bespoke to the 'spaces' — physical or otherwise — in which they occupy in Hong Kong. I argue that these 'spaces' are inextricably linked to the city's unique urban geographies, as well as the MDW communities' subaltern status within the city's sociopolitical framework.