The crowds were there during the weekends and the tea-dances were usually filled to the brim. Weekdays would bring in a small crowd to these cabarets but the prices of tickets were not as expensive. And the imported music? Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby melodies, playing to the rhythm of rag-time, boogie-woogie, honky-tonk and of course jazz. The floor was crowded when the orchestra played the blues and dance music in slow-fox trot and waltz. The reason is obvious.
(*Beginning in the late 1920s, dancers in the US enjoyed doing an energetic dance they called the Lindy-Hop. Critics called these gyrating dancers 'jitter-bugs (image)', and in the late 30s the name was applied to the dance itself. What was now known as the Jitterbug was also called Swing, and would remain popular into the 40s.
*There were also many popular dances in the 30s, including the sophisticated Continental and Carioca, the carefree Lambeth Walk and Big Apple, and the Latin-inspired Rumba and Conga.
*In the late 30s, jazz that was written for dancing broke off into its own musical style... swing music. Performed by big bands, swing would become the most popular music style in the 40s.)
The song list played in these cabarets might include: April In Paris, The Way You Look Tonight, Goody Goody, Ebb Tide, Harbour Lights, Lullaby Of Broadway, I'm In The Mood For Love, It's Only A Paper Moon, Lady Of Spain, All Of Me, etc.
In Singapore, with some influence from HK, Shanghai and Malay culture, the cabarets would have a mix of the West and the East and the locals songs might include the ones sung by our 40s Shanghai ladies ( Zhou Xuan, Wu Yingyin, etc), peppered with the ronggeng, samba, rhumba, Latin music and old Malay songs.
*Reference for 3 paragraphs: http://www.angelfire.com/
Original article: Andy Lim Collection