SINGAPORE 60's: ANDY's POP MUSIC INFLUENCE IS MY PERSONAL MUSIC AND MEMORY TRAIL. PICTURES TELL STORIES BUT I DO NOT OWN THE RIGHTS TO YOU TUBE VIDEOS, AUDIO TRACKS OR IMAGES. THEY HAVE BEEN UPLOADED FOR EDUCATIONAL AND ILLUSTRATIVE PURPOSES SO INFORM ME IF COPYRIGHTED AND THEY WILL BE DELETED. ANDY LIM (NOVEMBER, 2008).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Girls In The Garage? How Others View Our 60s Asian Lady Singers. Stereo-Typed Again?

Way back in 1999 on 13th February, an album of Singapore 60s English and Chinese pop songs were released. Many enthusiasts would have realised this but just in case... On this 13 track CD, we have an interesting selection that includes:
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1 Penny Lim & The Silverstones - Kung See, Kung See, Let's Be Happy 2 Rita Chao & The Quests - Hanky Panky 3 Lara & The Trailers - Sugar Town 4 Nancy Sit - Love Potion #9. 5 Rita Chao - Yummy, Yummy, Yummy *6 [unknown] - If You Ever Go 7 Naomi & The Boys - As Tears Go By 8 Naomi & The Boys - I'd Like to Know 9 Rita Chao & The Quests - How to Catch a Girl 10 Nancy Sit - Hanky Panky 11 Sakura & The Quests - My Boy Lollipop 12 Nancy Sit - Come Back When You Grow Up 13 Nancy Sit - Fever.
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*The Silver Strings & Shirley Nair. (check Comment by Steve Farram).
WHAT OTHERS SAY:
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Below is an article posted by Mack Hagood on February 22, 2004 09:24 pm by The Far Eastern Audio Review:
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"As Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation heads for the video stores and awards shows, some are having second thoughts about the film. Kiku Day's scathing indictment in the U.K.'s Guardian and other late reviews have held up the film's jokes about Japanese food, stature and English pronounciation as examples of anti-Asian racism.
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Coppola, who lived in Japan for a time, is probably taken aback that a film she intended as "a love letter to Tokyo" has been interpreted as racist. The key to the controversy is in the film's title: Lost in Translation is about the alienation, wonder and--yes--humor to be found at the limits of people's understanding of one another.
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The problem is, like her two protagonists, the director doesn't push those limits hard enough and little beside the wacky and exotic make it through the filter of her Western gaze. This isn't racism (it lacks the intent and cruelty that word implies), but it is a missed opportunity to see the Japanese on their own terms.
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Which brings me to The Girls in the Garage Vol. 9: Oriental Special. Again, the (somewhat unfortunate) title tells us a lot: This installment of the 60's girl rock series brings us wacky finds from the flea markets of Singapore.
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Compiler "Bradley Ghoulstein" is knocked out by the hilarity of what gets lost in the Chinese translation of Western pop, so the filter we get here is in the playlist, which is comprised almost entirely of familiar American songs. The goal here is a cool, funny addition to garage collections and on that level it works well.
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Rita Chao and the Quests' version of "Hanky Panky" (one of two versions on the CD) is brilliant. Greasy-dirty guitar tone, funky drumming and Rita's charming vocal delivery--complete with "R" and "L" mixing and implied lesbianism when she doesn't change the gender of "her baby" in the lyrics--all conspire to create the perfect party single.
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Nancy Sinatra's "Sugar Town" sounds great in Chinese by Lara and the Trailers; "Love Potion #9" fairs a little poorer in the shaky hands of Nancy Sit and her band. Yes, that's right... Nancy Sit, a Nancy Sinatra knock-off responsible, by the way, for the oh-my-god-it's-so-bad-turn-it-off-now second version of "Hanky Panky" on the disc. Cross-cultural weirdness abounds on this record and it's damn fun.
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Racist? I can't see how. Reductionist? That's a different story. Mr. Ghoulstein's liner notes seem to be made up of whatever he could glean from the album covers. Intrigued by their beautiful version of "As Tears Go By," I checked the notes for information on Naomi and the Boys and learned they were "Malaysian (Indonesian?)" with vocals "sung in almost perfect English... damn."
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A quarter of the tunes here belong to Nancy Sit, not because she's good, but because she's funny. But by far the best song is an original, Penny Lim and the Silverstone's "Kung See, Kung See, Let's Be Happy." The liner notes call it an "undescribably baffling masterpiece of New Year's (Chinese of course) bubblegum." I can't improve on that description. It's Chinese 60's pop on its own terms - incredibly weird and enjoyable. It opens Oriental Special and the rest of the CD pales in comparison.
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Lost in Translation and The Girls in the Garage Vol. 9 both view Asians through the filter of Western culture and divide them into two groups: hipsters who get it "right" and (much preferred!) amusing folks who don't. In either case, the Westerner is really looking at himself--whether it's the flattery of good imitation or a funhouse mirror.
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I don't condemn us for being this way--all cultures are self-obsessed, after all. But when we stick only to the safe confines of the Tokyo five-star hotel and the goofy Singaporean cover versions of our own songs, we miss out on true Asian originals and the chance to push beyond the limits that separate all of us different styles of human."
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Image/article by: Mack Hagood who is currently completing his MA thesis in Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University. He is creator and editor of the Far Eastern Audio Review. From: Folklore of East Asia Folklore Forum 38.1 (2008).
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Listen to the songs on You Tube. Do you have comments to make or do you have a copy of the CD and Bradley Ghoulstein's liner notes? Would be an interesting read.
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14 comments:

duriandave said...

Andy, I find the attitude of the guy who wrote these liner notes more amusing than the less-than-perfect English of the singers. At least they were being sincere. Unlike the writer, who can only appreciate the music on the level of camp (ie. "This is so bad it's good"). The camp attitude is pretty common among so-called hipsters and one which they adopt towards most everything in their life. It's pretty sad when one can only view the world through ironic detachment.

Anyway, I do own this CD. Despite the backwards packaging and worthless liner notes, it's a pretty good collection of songs. And if you like the English pop of Singapore and Hong Kong, it will save you from having to fork out lots of money for the original EPs.

Andy Young* said...

Hi Dave, Thanks for writing. The cheap, loud CD packaging speaks for itself, English letters disguising as Chinese characters (usual Western-style representation) to attract the uninitiated. And what does the term, 'Girls In The Garage' connotate? It's how many Westerners view our "mysterious East" even up till today.

I personally know Henry Suriya whose sister Naomi and brother Robert form part of The Boys. They are Singaporeans, not Malaysians. Just shows how much research has been done to put a CD like this one for sale. Then again it could be a boot-leg and considering that these artistes and their music are copyrighted, it's exploitation.

I hope others will write to say their piece.
Cheers

Gui Gontijo said...

Hello my old friend! There's such a long time we don't talk. My apologies for the damn bad english of mine. Now, in the blog you have a translator. It is in the right upper corner. Just click on the flag of your preference and the blog will be translated. Good to "see" you, haha!

Peace,

William.

Andy Young* said...

Thanks for writing. And good to 'see' you too.

Yes, I shall try to put a translator on mine. Please keep in touch.
Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Hi Andy,
Girls in the Garage was a series of records (later CDs) of 60s girl singers, mainly from the US and some from Europe. So the Girls in the Garage title really has no connection with how the compilers of the series view Asian women. I think there were 11 albums in the series and the Oriental Special was number 9. The attitude of the liner note writer is very condescending. The writer shows complete ignorance of his subject and as Dave said earlier, he is much more of a joke than the music, which is mostly very good. The Girls in the Garage records and CDs were all boot-legs, but they did serve the purpose of exposing the music to a lot of people who probabaly have greater respect for the recording artists than the compilers of the albums. By the way, do you recognise the title for track 6, If You Ever Go? It's Shirley Nair and our friends The Silver Strings. The compilers seem to have bought a stack of records at flea markets in Singapore including a pirated copy of Shirley's song. The cover had a photo of Shirley and The Silver Strings, but didn't mention who they were. So what you get here is actually a pirate of a pirate! Anyway, it's a good CD and seems to have been one of the most popular ones from the series.
Best wishes
Steve

Andy Young* said...

Hi Steve, Thank you so much for providing insight to what I think is your profound knowledge of 60s music in Asia.

Although I don't have a copy of this particular CD, I have most of the songs in other compilations and vinyls. Some of them are available on You Tube too.
Cheers.

Anonymous said...

If you are into learning about what is going on in the industry here is a pretty cool site that talks about what's going on in the industry, do's and don'ts of you are an indie artist, and much more.
www.musicwihtoulabels.com It's all about indie artists all over the world

Andy Young* said...

Thank you for writing. I am familiar but could it be the same website as music without labels?
Cheers

Anonymous said...

There have been many compilation all over the world of past music and this one is no exception. There are also liner-note writers who try to make a meagre living out of these songs and CD compilation. Let them be.

Andy Young* said...

As long as information is correct, positive and valid.
Cheers.

Mark Wong said...

Hi Andy,

Tried to email you at sing60smusic@yahoo.com but it doesn't seem to work? Do you have another email address?

Mark

Andy Young* said...

Hi Mark,
My apologies. I checked the problem as you weren't the first to write. I forgot to insert the .sg

Please write again to:
sing60smusic@yahoo.com.sg

Thank you.

Hilary said...

I remember years ago that Joseph Pereira told me he owned this travesty, and that the girls had better songs than what was represented. I suppose Joseph knows what he is talking about as he is an expert.

Andy Young* said...

I guess it's a matter of opinion as the love or appreciation for a piece of music (like a painting) is never similar.

Likewise the artistes.

Thank you for visiting.