It was like a very intimate Unplugged session. Or one of those rare snapshot moments that stay with you. There was Kel sitting on a small chair in the equally shoebox in the city type of restaurant-bar where he sings regularly.

He was accompanying himself on guitar and using his voice as another instrument. People around laughed amongst themselves and talked over the singing. A few listened to the guy trying to have his music heard. It wasn’t exactly the best venue. But what can one do? A paying gig pays.

Hardly being impressed by many things in Hong Kong- and this includes many masquerading as professional singers- I was completely caught off guard and caught up in the moment- the chords he used, how creatively he turned a cover of “Wonderwall” by Ryan Adams on its head. He made it his own. Took it to another level. Writing this, I wish I could have recorded that set. It was that good.

Usually, I see Kel onstage at Adrenaline at the HKJC with the resident band and singer Jennifer Palor. But this night, he was on his own. Just him and his guitar and incredible interpretation skills. It was something I had never heard before. Those vocal chops. Wow!

While the restaurant/bar continued as a small ball of activity, two friends with me and I were lost in our own thoughts.

I don’t know what Thomas and Vira were thinking, but I was wishing more people could have seen Kel this night. This was much much more than some covers singer churning out music by numbers. It was not another karaoke singer in a hotel lounge or one of those tedious jam sessions by oldster jazzsters, though technically extremely good, flying off, but going back to the days of Return To Forever and Weather Report. But without Joe Zawinul. Dig? And where the trained seals clap after every solo performed with technical self indulgence.

Meanwhile, here was Kel doing his best to just keep going to make ends meet and also because of his love of music.

Here’s a guy who really should be making music with people like Nathan East, Steve Gadd and maybe John Mayer. He should be opening for everyone from Clapton to Rag And Bone Man. He should be recording with someone like Calvin Harris. But here’s Kel in Hong Kong.

Just how much Kel has improved as a musician, singer and entertainer has been talked about by those who have seen his metamorphosis. A few short years ago, he was part of a duo. He left the guitar playing to someone else. That was then.

Now, he backs himself. He’s learning all the time. The guitar. Bass. Keyboards. Drums. He seems consumed to make up for lost time.

The question is, And now what? Where’s he heading? Does he have a management deal? Dunno. If he does, do they have the networking and negotiation skills to take his career further? Kel is much too good for Hong Kong. Or perhaps stay here and be more than another unknown musician having their songs streamed on Spotify. Please.

To get from here to there, he needs a team. Is there such a team in Hong Kong? No. At least not the entire team. But using Hong Kong as a base and with international management? Definitely.

We’ve worked together in the recording studio. That was about a year ago. The end product was good- but Kel
has outgrown those songs. He needs better. Stronger material. He needs something much bigger.

When seeing and listening to what big money can buy and cobble together for another round of old fashioned boy and girl groups recording Nineties infested pop music, it’s just not fair that a real talent like Kel performs every single night at a shoebox in Hong Kong just to make ends meet. Something is very wrong. It needs to be put right.

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