HAJI MAJI


Amoy Instrumental
June 28, 2008, 10:44 am
Filed under: Amoy Opera, Instrumental | Tags: , , , ,

Amoy is in the Southeastern province of Fujian, across the strait from Taiwan. The language and culture are closely related to that of Taiwan. Here’s an Amoy Opera instrumental on a label I’ve never seen before. The name of the label translates as something like “Country Love Company”, or maybe more accurately “Patriotsim”, as one commentor has noted below . The music sounds very much like Taiwanese Opera (coming soon in a future post).

>Ai-Guo (Patriotic) 5318a

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

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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)

>COLUMBIA 57700G



THE MYSTERIOUS HANOVER LABEL

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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)).

>HANNOVER V240a



AMOY OPERA FROM FUJIAN

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Welcome back, Dear Reader, for another dose of of exceedingly obscure Chinese Opera. This time we have an example of Amoy Opera on the His Master’s Voice label. Amoy (aka Hokkien) is a language/dialect from the Southern Chinese province of Fujian, which neighbors the Guangdong province, the origin of our last posting of Teochew Opera. Amoy is directly across the strait from Taiwan and the language and music are basically the same. Like the Teochew people, the Fujian people emigrated to many parts of Southeast Asia, taking their music and language with them. Forms of this opera style are still popular in the region today.

A bit noisy at first, but it clears up…Enjoy!

>HMV 24-12941



TEOCHEW OPERA FROM SOUTHERN CHINA

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Here’s a beautiful and hypnotic Teochew Opera on the obscure Tiger label. Teochew is a Chinese dialect from the Guangdong region of Southern China. The Teochew music bears more resemblance to Southeast Asian music than other Chinese opera forms, especially the Peking opera (in fact, this was recorded in Thailand according to one of our readers, see comments for further info). This record is a great example of the measured rhythm and clear melody of the Teochew style, with little of the wild percussive effects of the Peking style. During the 18th-20th centuries there was much emigration from Guangdong into Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and elsewhere in the region and a healthy Teochew Opera scene existed in those places until recently.

>TIGER 1048D



CANTONESE OPERA ON BEKA

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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



A CLASSIC PEIPING DRAMA

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The first time I heard Chinese Opera I was really shocked. I’ve listened to a lot of unusual music, but nothing seemed further from the western concept of music. I knew I was hooked immediately and had to look into this stuff…

I soon learned that there are two main types of Chinese Opera, and I’m talking about the 78 rpm era here, Peiping Opera (aka Peking or Beijing) and Cantonese Opera. Peiping Opera is a bit more “classical” while Cantonese style is a bit more “folk”. It’s good to keep in mind that the history of opera music in China, which was more or less their theater, folklore, and music all rolled into one, is a long and complicated story going back hundreds of years. I’m definitely not qualified to make any definitive statements about which style is older or the tangled webwork of influences.

Peiping Drama, which is what this record is labeled as, usually consists of a fiddle-like instrument called Erhu or Jinghu, or one of the variations on it, and a handful of other stringed instruments. The general cacophony is provided by a rhythm section consisting of gongs, cymbals, woodblocks and such. The singing is in an unnaturally high voice, often sung by men performing the role of a woman (qingyi) and using stylized, archaic words with special pronunciation. This style tends to be much more wild than the Cantonese, with a lot of percussive effects that would be used to accompany physical action on stage such as acrobatics, elaborate fight scenes, hand gestures and general posturing.

Here, then, is a pretty typical example of this style, I’m guessing from the 1920’s. It seems to me that Pathe recorded the most records in this style while other labels tended to record more Cantonese.

The singer is the “Opera King”, Mei Lan Fang, the internationally famous male singer known for qingyi roles. See the film Farewell My Concubine for some nice depiction of this.

Here he sings the prelude to his famous Ba Hwang Bia Gei, meaning Emperor Ba Hwang Bids Farewell to his Concubine. (thanks to Seneca Chew for translation!)

This is the strange story of a famous emperor who is despondent over the loss of his men in battle. The opera culminates with a famously complicated, stylized sword dance performed by his concubine as she commits suicide to express her loyalty to the emperor!

> PATHE 35165 A

Mei Lin Fang