Brief history of the development of harmonica in Hong Kong


  • Harmonica music started to develop in Hong Kong in the 1930s.
  • Individual tremolo harmonica players from China moved to Hong Kong to set up different harmonica organizations such as The Chinese Y.M.C.A. Harmonica Orchestra (中華基督教青年會口琴樂隊) and China Harmonica Society (中國口琴社).
  • Heart String Harmonica Society was another organization set up by the then sole agency of Hohner in Hong Kong, W.S. Shirly & Co.


  • In the 1950s, other than tremolo harmonica, chromatic harmonica became popular in Hong Kong. Prominent harmonica players Larry Adler and John Sebastian were invited to perform in Hong Kong.
  • Local players such as Lau Mok (劉牧) and Fung On (馮安) were also devoted to the promotion of the chromatic harmonica.
  • In the Chinese Y.M.C.A. Harmonica Orchestra, Fung On gradually replaced tremolo and diatonic harmonicas with the chromatic harmonica.


  • The symphonic orchestration of the Chinese Y.M.C.A. Harmonica Orchestra started in the 1960s. The goals were to enhance the tone colour and the volume and to perform pieces composed for a symphony orchestra.
  • In the mid-60s, the Chinese Y.M.C.A. Harmonica Orchestra had developed into one with about 100 members.
  • Aimed at imitating the symphonic orchestration of the western orchestra, a number of traditional instruments in a western orchestra were replaced by various types of harmonica:
    • violin and viola were replaced by 12-hole and 16-hole chromonicas;
    • cello by chord harmonica, contra bass and octave bass;
    • double bass by octave bass;
    • flute by pipe soprano;
    • clarinet by pipe alto;
    • trumpet by horn soprano;
    • trombone by horn alto;
    • oboe by melodica soprano;
    • English horn by melodica alto;
    • French horn by melodica professional.
    • Double bass, accordion, piano, and percussion like timpani and xylophone were also used.


  • The 1970s was regarded as the flourishing period in the development of harmonica music in Hong Kong.
  • Fung On and others continued to teach harmonica and set up harmonica orchestras in local secondary schools such as Hotung Secondary School, King’s College, Kiangsu-Chekiang College, Queen’s College, St. Paul’s College, St. Paul’s Co-educational College.


    • In the 1980s, the number of harmonica learners decreased steadily, the result being that harmonica music in Hong Kong did not grow notably



  • In the 1990s, however, the development of harmonica music flourished again.
  • Harmonica players in Hong Kong began to participate in international harmonica competitions, including the World Harmonica Festival in Germany and the Asia Pacific Harmonica Festival in different Asian cities.


  • In the 2000s, the Hong Kong Harmonica Association (H.K.H.A.) (香港口琴協會) was established.
  • The arrangement of its orchestras – the H.K.H.A. Harmonica Orchestra and the H.K.H.A. St. James’ Settlement Junior Harmonica Orchestra – largely follows that of the Chinese Y.M.C.A. Harmonica Orchestra.
  • It is evident that over the last forty years, the symphonic orchestration of harmonica music remained, in principle, the same. Put differently, the influence of Fung On in the symphonic orchestration of harmonica music in Hong Kong has been sustained for nearly half a decade.
  • Hong Kong can be seen as the forerunner of the formation of symphonic orchestration of harmonica music around the world. In the closing ceremony of the World Harmonica Festival in Trossingen, Germany in 2005, a European adjudicator told Dr. Ho Pak Cheong (何百昌醫生), the founding president of the H.K.H.A., that the Hong Kong delegation had brought a new world to the harmonica.
  • In the Festival, the delegation was awarded first place in the categories of Orchestra, and School Orchestra.
  • The distinctive characters of the H.K.H.A. harmonica orchestras seem to be recognized by overseas, renowned, harmonica players.