Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chinatown My Chinatown: Plenty Around The World

This Post Is Dedicated To Bob Moroz (Manitoba, Canada) and Mrs. R. Kelland (Christchurch, NZ):

                        Chinatown, my Chinatown by Chet Atkins. Video from

Pop Song On Chinatown:

*Chinatown, my Chinatown,/When the lights are low,/Hearts that know no other land,/Drifting to and fro. The lines come from a pop song written by William Jerome and Jean Schwartz in 1910.  They incorporated Chinese musical forms into Western music for the melody.

The song has been recorded by numerous artists and is considered to be a jazz standard (like, Fly Me To The Moon, Lady Is A Tramp, Summertime and others).  Now why would two composers from the west write a song about Chinatown all so long ago? 
A flower festival in Frisco's Chinatown. Image from
A Chinatown In Every City:

I didn't believe it when I learnt as a youth that there's a Chinatown in nearly every city in the world.  Impossible I told my parents. But it's true.  There are hundreds of Chinatowns all over and this would include cities in Asia, the Americas, Africa, Australasia and Europe.

Music Sheet Cover. A 1910 song.
So a phone call from a Caucasian friend in Winterpeg told me, "How can it not be true? There are nearly 1.4 billion Chinese people in the world today."

"Yes, too many around huh!" I told him but it was taken in good fun cause Bob was one of the friendliest white-boy to approach me on my first day at school. We are still in touch after nearly 40 years.

Chinatown in Winnipeg (or Winterpeg), Canada.
Tong Yan Gaai:

You can't miss these Chinatowns since the area would probably be cordoned off within its signature pagoda-styled frontage.  Tried to go to as many Chinatowns as possible within my lifetime but have not succeeded. Here are some cities visited during those youthful years: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto, London (Soho), Paris,  Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Cairns, Brisbane, Christchurch(?) and the ones in S.E. Asia. These places  are usually referred to in Cantonese as Tong Yan Gaai, or Chinese People's Street.

Miss Chinatown Philippines Beauty Pageant.
Just around the corner from Singapore and what my folks used to talk about, is Glodok in Djakarta, the Indonesian version of Chinatown which dates back to 1740. Just wondering if it's still there since I haven't been for a visit after 1990.

Chinatown Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Sixteen Singapore Dollars For Won-Ton Noodles:

You'd surely long to consume some Asian food during your travels away from Singapore so a Chinatown visit is a must unless you're gourmet-happy with fries and beef-burger everyday. Came a time in London I was running around Gerrard Street like a drug addict looking for a won-ton-noodle fix.

Chinese Restaurant at Gerrard Street, London.
"Two pounds, minimum charge!" the Chinese waiter said fiercely when I went into this corner restaurant. In the early 1980s, one pound was about eight Singapore dollars (if the mind serves correct) but I paid.  To curb the craving.
Sixteen Sing Dollars for a bowl!
When I lived in Christchurch NZ in the 70s my landlady warned me about eating the won-ton, "sold in a certain restaurant in Chinatown," and what she said could be, "cat's meat." For the few weeks I was attached there I didn't eat at the restaurant.

Miss Chinatowns:

The cheongsam charm has been around for a long time. Some Chinatowns hold annual Miss Chinatown beauty pageants.  There is always a Miss Chinatown San Francisco, Miss Chinatown Hawaii, Miss Chinatown Scholarship Pageant or like what they hold in the U.S.A., Miss Chinatown Houston or Miss Chinatown Atlanta and even Mr n Miss Chinatown Philippines.
Miss Chinatown USA Pageant.
So enjoy the Mills Brothers' song my friends cause the composition is a far cry from the way we were stereo-typed when Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan and Kato (Green Hornet) were around. All in good fun maybe? Dreamy, dreamy Chinatown, Almond eyes of brown,/Hearts are light and lights are bright,/In dreamy Chinatown.,/Wing Wong...

Hollywood stereo-types from the past?
Two other songs from the west about China: Singapore's Maria Tang sings When China Boy Meets China Girl and Dean Martin's, Slow Boat To China. Check them out under Labels below.
Marie Tang and Dino deliver songs with China theme.
This post was written well before my present computer headache.
*There are instances when the West cannot differentiate the Chinese from the Japanese (can we?) and the result is a music sheet with unique graphics and lyrics of a song which may prove offensive to some. But then, that's another story and another posting.

All Google images including those of Chinatowns in San Francisco, Winnipeg, Djakarta, London.






Jennifer said...

Yes! Glodok in Jakarta still exists, but the cordoning off with temples and such isn't that much obvious, but you know you're in Chinatown once you're in it.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you Jennifer for your information and for visiting the blog. I surely hope to see Glodok again one of these days. I miss Djakarta and hope to meet my friend Randy Lee of The Stylers who promises to take me around if I pop in.

chakap chakap said...

'Chinatown' (唐人街) is historically any ethnic enclave of expatriate Chinese from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan people. Areas like these exist throughout the world, including the Americas, Europe, Africa, Australasia and Asia.

Find almost anything Chinese in these Chinatowns including food, medicine, books, laundry and other antiquated features like opium dens (long ago), etc.

Anonymous said...

'Chinky Chinky Chinaman', 'Chinaman Song'.

Anonymous said...

The Mills Brothers was Dean Martin's favourite group. He used to listen to their songs until he became famous himself. He recorded the song.

Irh1966 said...

Uploaded ON You Tube on Mar 22, 2010:

This song was never released commercially, and only used for broadcast over radio stations in the 1930's.
The version here came from a "Hindsight" CD compilation back in 1995, and it features great remastering from the original 16-inch, 33 1/3 rpm, vertical cut transcription records recorded in 1935.

The one problem I found in the sound was a slight echo added between left and right channels to try to get a "psuedo-stereo" effect from the original mono recordings, most noticeable on headphones. I played the CD through my stereo system, using the mono control to combine the left and right channel which made for a more focused sound by canceling out the slight echo.

Otherwise, this record has very good sound by 1935 recording standards.

This particular recording was done by Big Band classic performance by Glen Gray & Casa Loma Orchestra and not the one featured on this blog.

w said...

Hi Andy,

I am a student of The Puttnam School of Film from LASALLE College of The Arts, currently in the third year of my studies in the BA(Hons) Film Program.

I have some questions with regards to obtaining permission and rights for music from Singapore in the 60s to be featured in films, in particularly, Shirley Nair & The Silver Strings.
I can't seem to be able to PM you, I have left behind my email address, I would love to hear from you and hope that you can advise me. Thank you in advance.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you for the interest in this posting and Wilson I have written to you on your email which remains confidential. I hope I can provide some help regarding your query.