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.

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