Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Zhou Xuan (周璇) On Artistic Vinyl Record Covers

Zhou Xuan's first album Wandering Songstress 天涯歌女

Continuing with the same theme, here's another revelation on Chinese record covers.  Chow Hsuan or Zhou Xuan (周璇) was one of the top seven-star singers in China from the 30s to the 50s and many of her songs are still favourites and being played even today. 

I have a collection of six Zhou Xuan records. That's about sixty songs altogether and includes titles like A Mahjong Game, Choosing A Wife, Little Bridal Chamber and the famous Wandering Songstress (天涯歌女).

These albums had been compiled many years after the original recordings and would not be in their respective order of production. Except for some slight scratching and hissing sound, they play well on the turn-table. But this posting is neither about her nor her songs.

This personal collection of vinyl discs are 33rpm Long Plays but come in a 10-inch and not 12-inch format.  Talk of outsourcing, this collection has many countries to its origin.  Although Zhou Xuan was from China, the record was issued by The Gramophone Company Ltd of Hayes, Middlesex, England.  The collection was recorded in Hong Kong but produced in India (like many of Cliff Richard's records).

Her third album.
The record label reveals a media company well-known in the earlier part of the twentieth century for its pre-movie documentaries in the cinemas. Pathe (image) with its cock-crowing icon is well known by many readers of this blog - you have to be at least in your 50s to remember this one.

Now here's the surprise. The unique drawings on the record covers had been painted by two Singapore artists; the earlier ones by Ms Nah QH and the later ones by Mr Tan KC. The first image above is described on the back sleeve and shows a "reproduction of a Chinese village scene of some *thirty years ago (probably 50 years ago today).  It depicts the Wandering Songstress on her travels from village to village, inn to inn, eating-house to eating-house earning her living by song."

Back Cover of Fourth Album
I guess the art form like the brush strokes, colours and Chinese characters reveal the artistry of paintings done those years.  But honestly, I am no art critic and the illustrations are as modern today and look good enough to be hung on the wall.  But the bonus about this collection is the English translation of the Chinese titles as it helps non-Chinese readers to understand the theme of each melody (image 3).  Wish they would do that today.

So there you are, the lady's from China, her songs were recorded in Hong Kong, the cover pictures were done in Singapore, the records pressed in India and the whole package controlled, produced and issued by England.  If you are complaining about outsourcing today just remember that it's been practised a long, long time ago.
(This posting is a byte size or bite size information about what little I know, to share with some of my younger readers. If you wish to know more about the other 4 covers and songs recorded just write in.)

You can read more about Zhou Xuan by clicking her name under Labels below.

Article/Images: Original/Own collection.


shayavr said...

I must say I realy love these old songs of Zhou Xuan ... Love that combination of traditional chinese music with western swing music...

manson mok said...

I listen to her songs in the 60 when I am just a boy, in the 80 when I am a young man - I never drop a tear. Now in 2013 and in my 50s, my tears flow and feel so sad. Why? I know now. Because I live long enough to feel the pain and suffering in life... that my tear flow everytime I listen. Thanks to Youtube for making it possible.

(edited from You Tube).

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Pathé record business was founded by Charles and Émile Pathé in Paris and by 1896 they had offices and recording studios in London, Milan, and Moscow.

If I am not mistaken they also branched out in Singapore, KL and Penang, Malaya.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...


A practice used by companies to reduce costs by transferring portions of work to outside suppliers rather than completing it internally.

Question is were the reasons similar when it was done in the past? Like recording music for instance? said...

Great post, thanks for posting it!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you for visiting.

CNA said...

Dear Andy, I am a producer at Channel NewsAsia, and I'd like to get in touch with you because I am working on a show about Singapore in the 60s. Can you email me back when you see my message? Hear from you soon!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I have replied your note.

ARTHUR said...

This is the English version Moon above Malaya.
single: Moon Above Malaya (1952)
words: Jimmy Kennedy
music: 竹岡信幸

Moon above Malaya
Shine down on my sweetheart
Sing song girl of the eastern star
Down in a town by the native bazaar
She's all that I adore from here to Singapore

Soon she'll hear me calling
From my drifting sampan
Then we'll dream in a bamboo hut
No one to care if I'm kissing her
But the moon above Malaya

released: Oct 1952

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yes, thanks for sharing Arthur. And the song CHINA NIGHTS too. They are both from YOU TUBE.

HAPPY TAY said...

Thanks for the video and song, "Nona Zaman Sekarang"! I like it, especially played by the orchestra (RTM ?).

Cheers mate.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Happy for taking time to write to this blog. Hope you will share with us your Elvis Graceland trip soon.

Tony Shome said...

Hi Andy
Would love to make contact with Robert Suriya if you know his whereabouts. We were childhood friends, played music together back in the 60s.
Thank you.
Tony Shome

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Apologies for late reply. I think the best way is to write to him via FACEBOOK because he lives in the US and I do not.

Thank you for visiting this blog.