April 1, 2008, 8:51 pm
Filed under: China | Tags:


According to the WordPress Blog statistics, the most common search term that brings people to this blog is “Teochew Opera”. So here’s another one for the Teochew fans out there.

A common complaint is that all Teochew Opera sounds the same (which has some truth to it) but this record certainly stands out …I’m not sure what to say except that this is a very unusual sounding record!

The title isĀ Tio Mou Seng Tong Sok (Man Trapped in Snow).

UPDATE: Reader Javier Li Yong-En (and her Mom!) informs us that the trumpet sound here is a Har To (or Hao Tou) which is commonly used to accompany onstage action in military or court scenes. She adds that this is a recording by a defunct opera troupe from Singapore called Lao Gek Chuong Hiang. She also sends a photo he took of the Har To. She disagrees that this is an uncommon sounding recording, but I have at least 50 Teochew 78’s but not a single one sounds like this. Thanks Javier!

>ODEON 227136a


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 24, 2008, 9:47 am
Filed under: Teochew Opera | Tags:


Pagoda was a great label that was most likely a subsidiary Deutsche-Grammophon along with Polyphon and Hindenburg. Pagoda seems to consist mostly of Teochew Opera from southern China. Unfortunately, I broke the Pagoda record I wanted to post while trying to get it’s too small spindle hole to fit on the turntable…so this is the runner up!

Performed by the Old Choy Bo Fung troupe. (thanks to Patrick Lau for translation.)

>PAGODA V 3912a

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.


January 1, 2008, 9:50 pm
Filed under: Instrumental | Tags: , ,

JW over at Excavated Shellac has posted a great Cantonese Opera recording this week, so I decided to post some Chinese music that isn’t opera. Here are two records of instrumental music.What would Confucius play? The Guqin, a 7 string zither, is a very old instrument that was associated with philosphers and scholars, and played by Confucius 2500 years ago! The music is very different from the Chinese Opera we’ve been listening to, which is essentially folk music, while the Guqin played meditative art music. This was probably the first instrument to use tablature notation, some of it was written as early as the 12th century. Pretty amazing. A nice cd of old guqin recordings by Lo Ka Ping is available here.


>CHINA 3-1589a

The Sanxian is basically a banjo. It has 3 strings, usually tuned DAD, and a fretless neck. The lack of frets allows for all kinds of great slides and unusual intonation. It’s body is covered with a python skin. Sanxian is used throughout China and there are variations all over South East Asia.


>BEKA 22777


Blind Musicians from Shanghai. Sanxian player in the middle.

December 16, 2007, 3:24 pm
Filed under: Amoy Opera


Here’s an interesting one on Regal. Chinese opera was usually released in the form of a 2, 3 or 4 record series to accommodate the lengthy lyrics. The music tends to be very similar on each side of these series, often with subtle variations or key shifts. Such is the case with this 2 record series, of which this is the third part. The first three sides are almost musically identical except part 3 introduces some amazing sliding and tremolo. Not only is this effect not on the other songs in this series, I’ve never heard it on any other Chinese record!

I’m not too sure about the history of Regal, but it’s obviously a subsidiary of Pathe at the time of this release.

>REGAL 50002C