Yao Li has passed away on 19 July 2019 from The Malay Mail.
|PYE Radio 1950s|
These songs were my mother's favourites and I used to listen to them in the 50s when she tuned in to some Chinese programmes from the radio. I am not sure if they were from our own stations or from overseas but the family's PYE radio certainly took us to places unknown and songs so beautiful.
Today I wish to share these songs especially with those who are not familiar with Mandarin songs from the 1940s. But first... the singer.
Yao Li or Yáo Xiùyún (姚秀雲) was raised in Shanghai and rose to popularity singing in one of the city's dance halls. She had her songs broadcasted over the radio in 1935 at aged 13 and recorded her first single with Pathe Records at 14 with Yan Hua (嚴華) called Xin xiao fang niu (新小放牛) or the new cowherd.
She also often recorded as a duo with her pop singer brother. At that time she became a rival of Zhou Xuan, and was called Silver Voice as opposed to Zhou Xuan's Golden Voice (check Labels below). Yao Li's success in Shanghai was partially due to the vocal training of the Russian diaspora court musicians.
In the 1940s, she was encouraged to imitate Afro-American singers seen in Hollywood movies. These movies were available in Shanghai. Her voice improved tremendously and in the 50s she developed a singing style like her idol Patti Page.
Because she got married and had family Yao Li halted her career in 1947. Following the Communist power seizure in China in 1949, popular music was banned and Yao fled to Hong Kong in 1950. She continued singing and recording as these became hits. Within five years she made the popular 桃花江 (Peach Blossom River) as her singing voice was used in films to dub those of famous Chinese actresses. Soon the featured songs became hits for Yao Li too.
In 1967 she halted her singing career and within two years acquired a position as an executive with EMI Music Hong Kong. She returned to performing in Taiwan from 1970 and retired in 1975.
The above song on YouTube is one that I listen to very often and the melody never strays from my mind. Roughly translated this song, (姚莉 -那個不多情 姚莉) means, That's Not Sentimental. Ironical. Another favourite of mine is The Spring Breeze Kisses My Face (姚莉 - 春風吻上我的臉) recorded in 1956.
There are still many other Chinese melodies swimming in my mind and if I find them I shall share them on this blog.
Edited information from Wikipedia and whatsinmyipodblogspot.
19 July 2019
She passed away in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and has given a performance in 2012. May she Rest In Peace.