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Actor, designer, rapper, comedian and radio host Jan Lamb of Cantopop duo Softhard has done it all and more.

Actor, designer, rapper, comedian and radio host Jan Lamb of Cantopop duo Softhard has done it all and more.


In 1988, Lamb was recommended by his sister Sandy Lamb San-san, then a radio DJ, for a job as a graphic designer at Commercial Radio Hong Kong.

Within months, his quick wit and comedic talent were discovered by Winnie Yu Tsang, then the channel's general manager and now vice president. Tsang asked Lamb and Kot, then also a designer for Commercial Radio, to host an easy-to-make show together, as they were already good friends and had great chemistry.

The name Softhard is a play on a Cantonese expression that loosely translates to iron fist in a velvet glove.

She wanted the two to complement each other, with Kot representing the sweet, good cop in the audience participation games and Lamb the opposite.

Lamb in an interview with the Post in 1998. Photo: SCMP

Under the name Softhard, they started as guest hosts and gradually gained popularity among Hong Kong radio listeners. They presented 12 different programs for commercial radio between the late 1980s and mid-1990s.

In 1989, the duo performed their first stand-up show and recorded their first Cantonese comedy rap single. In 1991, Softhard released a self-titled debut album and has since been credited with launching the city's hip-hop scene.

In 1993, Softhard hosted a game show and appeared as a singer in the filmmaker's film. Wong Jingan action comedy City Hunter who played Jackie Chan and released their second rap album, whose Cantonese name translates to The Softhard Killing Incident of Broadcast Drive.

One of the tracks, Everyone Needs to Lup, promoted universal love and safe sex through cheeky Cantonese puns and slang-filled lyrics. wolf being a way of referring to putting on a condom.

No one else will sing that kind of song with that kind of attitude, Lamb said at the time.

Lamb performs at the annual Ultimate Song Chart Awards organized by Commercial Radio at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in 1999. Photo: SCMP
In 1995, the duo focused on their individual careers. Although rumors of strain in their relationship surfaced, Lamb and Kot directed and starred in a 1996 independent film. 4 faces of Eve next to Sandra Ng Kwan-yue.
In the second half of the 1990s, Lamb wrote several radio dramas and directed short films, including Out of the blur (1996), a 30-minute dialogue-free film filled with surreal urban fantasies starring himself and singing actors Leon Lai Ming, Jacky Cheung Hok-yau and Vivian Chow Wai-man.
In 1997, he released his first solo album, Hard beat, for which he wrote the lyrics and designed the artwork. Lamb also designed the album cover for, among others, Softhards albums in 1991 and 1993, Faye Wongs Random thoughts (1994), Karen Mok Man-wais Karen Mok in full (1996), Leo Kui-keis Be my Valentine (1998) and Eason Chan Yik-avoids Some like it hot (2000).

He met Japanese designer Nigo, known for creating the streetwear brand Abathing Ape, or Bape, in 1998. Soon after, Lamb began incorporating designer streetwear into his stage performances.

He appeared in promotional images for Hong Kong's first Bape store in 1999 and has since modeled for Japanese magazines.

Eric Kot (left) and Lamb at a press conference promoting their Long Time No See concert in 2006. Photo: Reuters

Despite all this, Lamb has not forgotten his roots and continues to host radio shows.

In 2004 he began hosting A clear daya morning show on Commercial Radio, alongside actresses Ng and Michelle Loo Mik-suet and actor Chapman to Man-cat. Now in its 20th year, it remains one of the station's most popular shows.

Lamb is also a stand-up comedian. He performed a series of shows at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium in 2005, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in 2006 and the Hong Kong Coliseum in 2008; he continued to perform almost every year at the latter venue until 2019.

In 2006, Softhard reunited for a McDonalds Lunar New Year ad campaign and concert titled Long Time No See.

Kot (left) and Lamb in an interview with the Post in 2014. Photo: SCMP

Much of the charm of rap duos is their relevance.

Actually, the material comes from the streets, Lamb said in a 1993 interview. It's all happening around us; it’s something we care deeply about. And of course, that's our attitude. All these people are doing karaoke, no one is posting songs about what's happening around us.

In 2012, in a rare move for the Hong Kong entertainment industry, Softhard joined another Cantopop group, Grasshopperfor 12 concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum.
In 2014, Lamb starred alongside Kot in Laughter Academy, a play originally written by Japanese playwright Koki Mitani, in a series of 17 performances at the Hong Kong Arts Centre. The famous director Rensen Chan Man-kong directed the Cantonese adaptation.
Lamb at a promotional event for his stand-up shows in 2016.

When it comes to his personal life, Lamb has kept it mostly private. In 1998, he married Cass Phang Ling, then a singer, who gave birth to their first daughter in 2000 and withdrew from the spotlight after the birth of their second child in 2004.

In recent years, Lamb has added amateur marathoner to his roster of talents, with much of his Instagram feed now featuring running-related photos.

In September 2023, he ran the Berlin Marathon in Germany, about which he wrote: Not everything can go as planned. All I can hope for is painless cramps. Life is like a box of German chocolates, you never know what you're going to get.

For three evenings in December 2023, Lamb sang at her Uncle Auntie Farewell Party concerts at AsiaWorld-Expo in Lantau. Kot was the encore guest for the final show, during which it was announced that Softhard would reunite for a one-off concert in Hong Kong this year.

Before that, Lamb will hold a concert at the Londoner Arena in Macau on June 8.




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