The getai (歌台) or song stage that is back during this month's 7th Moon Hungry Ghost Festival tries to appease roaming spirits and hungry ghosts. The performances of the artistes remind me of Chinese singers who sing in Mandarin or English in the good ole' days in Singapore.
Black Plastic Discs
Twelve hit songs from the 60's on one vinyl record may not mean much today but take the situation back 50 years ago, the Long Play record above could have been a best seller. It was actually a hit record, otherwise the boss of Precious Urn Records wouldn't have churned them out by the thousands. These Chinese businessmen knew what they were doing when they pressed black plastics to sell to a Chinese educated market. It was a lucrative enterprise way back when.
I *wrote about Lisa Lim's recordings on this blog but they were found mostly on Extended Play vinyls (four songs per seven inch record) but this one I just bought has a full selection of all the songs she could have recorded within a particular period.
The Disappearing Act
But who cares about these Chinese L.P's. They might have been popular half a century ago but today? You will be surprised that these records are still in demand but there are less on the shelves in the vinyl shops as compared to numbers displayed five or six years ago.
Vinyl enthusiasts from around the world come to Singapore, Malaysia and the region to buy them but not to re-sell for profit. These music lovers are still listening to the evergreens.
One Caucasian gentleman I met in a shop told me the songs reminded him of his "evenings in Singapore's Chinatown" when he was here in the 1960's. There was a large record spread in front of the **Majestic Theatre as the songs blasted over the loud-speakers. Brand new gleaming records sold by vendors for cheap.
Treasure or Rubbish?
On the other hand some owners of these records have been throwing them away. Aren't these discarded vinyls music treasures that we should keep or have they been thrown away because the records are too old. Anita Kapoor, TV host for Treasure Hunt on CNA told me once, "Andy, I love the crackle and hiss on old records."
Some others moaned that the sound engineering techniques are not up to today's standards and the artistes are neither glamorous nor able to enunciate in proper English. (Lina Lim is posing in front of McRitchie Reservoir if you had noticed and possibly without much make-up. And she's so simply dressed in a business suit.)
A Japanese lady who spoke a smattering of English explained that, as a child she lived in Singapore in the 1970's and still remembers the Western favourites sung by local music makers. She bought many of these records from Sungei Road.
"Now they are mostly gone...'' and added, "a lot of collectors from my country."
So there you are folks, there is no price for these vinyls. I got mine for two dollars; you'd probably get yours for the same or much more but as long as they can be played on the turn-table they are worth it.
I'm still wondering how these record producers managed to record popular copyrighted songs without even printing the names of the composers/lyricists on the sleeve or inside labels, nor paying a fee for them. Or did they?
I used to listen to many of these songs on You Tube but hardly see any today. Have they been taken off because of copyright reasons? You may also have noticed blank spaces on many of my postings on Chinese records. They have been deleted by members who posted them. In time to come you need to own these vinyls and a turn-table if you wish to enjoy the melodies.
Meantime try to appreciate a pop culture that may not be around for too long.
If you are familiar with recording production and procedures of the past do write in to tell us.
** In the evenings when the streets cleared in front of the Majestic Theatre in the 1950's and 1960's, night market stalls sprung and lighted up the area. Some of them sold 78's, Single, Extended Play and Long Play records.
Images: A Private Collection and Google.