October 3, 2008, 1:38 pm
Filed under: cantonese opera

The 42000-43000 Victor series contains some of the most incredible Chinese music ever recorded. Predominately Cantonese, many of these recordings are reissues from the one sided 8000 series which were recorded in New York City and San Francisco as early as 1902. Because these were sold in the United States they are easier to find here, sometimes in great condition as leftover store stock.

This one has the classic Cantonese fiddle-banjo sound, that is, gaohu-sanxian sound.

>VICTOR 42126 A1

A beautiful recording featuring the end blown Chinese flute called Xiao, reminiscent of Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian flute music.

>VICTOR 42178 B2

Here’s another classic sounding Cantonese recording from the early 20th Century. This is a good example of the typical record from this Victor series.

>VICTOR 43246 A3

I had decided not to post this recording because it’s pretty scratchy, but because it’s one of my all time favorite Victor records and I because you must be an intrepid bunch of music lovers to be here in the first place, I figured what the hell. Enjoy.

>VICTOR 43337 B3


August 12, 2008, 8:08 pm
Filed under: cantonese opera

I’m always amazed at how cacophonous these Chinese records can be and here’s a perfect example. A  Cantonese instrumental played on the suona. The suona is a type of shawm that originated in Northern China and eventually spread across China for use in military, wedding, folk and opera music. It’s similar to the Turkish zurna and the Indian shennai, among  others.

After World War II, local entrepreneurs around the world started setting up their own record companies. Tsing Ping is one of the many Chinese-owned labels that emerged in this period, many of which were based in Chinese immigrant communities throughout Southeast Asia. Tsing Ping and Num Sing (see below) were based in San Francisco.


July 13, 2008, 1:21 am
Filed under: cantonese opera

Welcome to any visitors from Excavated Shellac! Have a look around, I’m sure you’ll find something you haven’t heard before!

I’ve already posted something from Oriental Records and quite a few Cantonese records, but I just couldn’t resist sharing this recent find. Otherworldly!

(see COMMENTS for title/performer translations).


Num Sing
June 28, 2008, 1:01 pm
Filed under: cantonese opera

Hello, Dear Listener, I’m back after a busy few months of Real Life and ready to present some more obscure Chinese Opera records! I figure the hardcore Haji Maji listeners have probably worn out all my previous postings through repeated daily listenings, so today I will be posting THREE different records from some small independent labels of the 1940’s and 50’s. Stay tuned, there will be a few surprises in July…

First up is a record on the Num Sing label, This one is for fans of chaotic percussion and players of trash can lids!  The title is roughly General Zhao Tzi Lung, on Horseback, Saves his Master. Thanks to Patrick for adding these details via the comments section.

>NUM SING 2003c

June 28, 2008, 12:32 pm
Filed under: cantonese opera

Here’s another one I’ve never seen before….Golden Star Records from Hong Kong. This Cantonese record is most likely from the 1940’s or early 1950’s. It’s interesting to compare the way the Cantonese musical style has changed from the earlier records I’ve posted…listen to the Beka, Columbia dragon, Hindenburg, etc.

(ps-See COMMENTS for title and artist info)


March 1, 2008, 1:50 pm
Filed under: cantonese opera | Tags: , ,


Possibly my favorite Chinese recordings can be found in the Columbia 57000 series. With their red or green labels and iconic dragon, these records are full of beautiful old time Cantonese opera. The only problem is finding them in decent condition, they are quite old and always seem to have been played to death. This recording features some really amazing singing.

(note: The “G” side of this record had a destroyed label, so I’m showing the filpside label)


February 16, 2008, 4:08 pm
Filed under: cantonese opera


Another rare label associated with Deutsche-Grammophon, Polyphon uses the same numbering as Hindenburg and Pagoda.
Typically wonderful Cantonese style singing here by Lum Kwun San. (Thanks to Patrick Lau)

The first recordings in China took place in 1903 in Shanghai and were supervised by Fred Gaisberg. His observations on the first recording session:

“Their idea of music is a tremdous clash and bang: with the assistance of a drum, three pairs of huge gongs, a pair of slappers, a sort of banjo, some reed instruments which sound like bagpipes, and the yelling of the singer, their so-called music was recorded on Gramophone.”
“On the first day, after making ten records we had to stop. The din had so paralyzed my wits I could not think.”
Gaisberg went to make over 300 hundred recordings in China.
(From Gaisberg’s autobiography as quoted in the notes to the Rounder cd “Rain Dropping on the Banana Tree“)


January 12, 2008, 2:31 pm
Filed under: cantonese opera | Tags: , ,




I had a request for some more Bai Ju Rong, the amazing Cantonese singer featured below on the Clipper label. Here he is on the obscure Oriental Records label.


November 17, 2007, 4:00 pm
Filed under: cantonese opera | Tags:



Here’s an excellent recording on the Odeon label featuring the Yangqin, a Chinese hammered dulcimer. The hammered dulcimer is used all over the world; Santur in India, Santoor in Perisa, Santouri in Turkey and Greece and various forms of the Cymbalom used throughout Eastern Europe. The Yangqin is a common instrument in Cantonese “Silk and Bamboo”, a form of folk playing that is closely related to Chinese Opera. I think this may be the only record I have that features the instrument.

The Odeon label included many different forms of Chinese Opera from all over the country. This one, I believe, was recorded in Hong Kong.

>ODEON 206019a

Bai Ju Rong



Bai Ju Rong, aka Bak Keui Wing (1892-1974) is one of my favorite singers. He was trained as a youth in the role of Xiaosheng, one of the subtypes of the main male role known as Sheng. Xiaosheng roles were handsome young men involved in various romantic intrigues and adventures. Bai Ju Rong went on to be thought of as the “Xiaosheng King” and made a major impact on Cantonese opera in the 1920’s. He re-defined almost every aspect of the performance; most importantly he switched from using the archaic “Official Cantonese (which many could not understand) to using vernacular language. He also changed the singing from an affected high voice to a natural, flowing “true voice” and made his mark on the use of gestures and melodic recitation.He started losing his sight and eventually had to quite performing. By 1948 he was reduced to singing in the street. Amazingly, he made a comeback and was again very successful. In 1958 he became principal of the Guangdong Opera School. This is part one of four.

>CLIPPER 1016a