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




Here’s a beautiful Cantonese recording. I love this old style which is sparse but with a great rhythmic groove. Many people think of Chinese Opera as being very arrhythmic, and it certainly can be, but this record and many others are played in the same way fiddle music is played all over the world, with a steady pulse.

According to the label, this is a Hua Dan role performed by Xiao Hong Xin. Dan is the name for female roles in China, Hua Dan being one of half a dozen common female roles. Hua Dan is a younger, coquettish female who usually accompanies a Gui Men Dan, a virtuous older Lady, exemplified by the superstar Mei Lan Fang. Often these roles were performed by men, but I believe that Xiao Hong Xin is a woman. (Thanks to David Du for translations).

Thanks to the erudite JW over at Excavated Shellac the mystery is cleared up…the label is actually called “Hindenburg” with a picture of General Paul von Hindenburg, President of Germany (1925-1934) as the trademark. My apologies to the General for mistaking him for Kaiser Wilhelm! Hindenburg, Pagoda and Polyphon were under the umbrella of Deutsche-Grammophon.
“Mech. Copt. 1927” is stamped in the shellac.

Info from Tan Sooi Beng’s article “The 78 RPM Record Industry in Malaya Prior to World War II” (Asian Music 28/1 (1996)).





In contrast to my first post, which was a prime example of Peiping Opera, here’s a beautiful Cantonese song by Suie Hing, Yea Gua Ba Fu Yung, meaning Night Rescue of Ba Fu Yung. (Thanks again to Seneca Chew for translation.)

Beka recorded many of these amazing Cantonese songs but they tend to be in pretty bad condition…if you have some nice ones let me know!

Cantonese Opera songs tend to have less exuberant percussion and a nice, relaxed pulse with beautifully intertwined Erhu melodies, sometimes sounding like two different songs at once! While all forms of Chinese Opera are more related to folk music than western opera, the southern style, cantonese style, is more folk like than the more stylized northern style, or Peiping opera. Cantonese spread throughout southeast Asia and influenced the local folk theater of Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and the general region.

Although Peiping Opera is considered a higher art form by some, the 78 rpm era saw a huge amount of Cantonese records being produced due to the massive emmigration of Cantonese speakers to countries around the world. For example, the Cantonese first arrived in California in the mid 19th Century and really boomed during the Gold Rush. San Francisco had a thriving Cantonese Opera scene and there are still amateur opera clubs there today. An excellent website on the subject can be found here, Pear Garden in the West.

> BEKA 22241