19 December 2008

Shuzai goes dating

Click to image if you read Chinese!
Back in the day, Cantonese opera and Hong Kong popular music were pretty much the same thing. But in 1930, the owner of New Moon Records, Chin Kwong Yan, came up with something a bit different, recording an album of Cantonese melodies in an American dancing style. The recordings featured trumpet, trombone, saxophone, violin and piano and were played by a pick-up band from two Cantonese opera theatres. This is the songsheet for a song called Saujai Goes Dating, which was recorded by Wong Sau Lin, a Hong Kong comedian who was known for his language play. We haven't actually heard this recording - New Moon recordings are almost impossible to find now. And because Chinese characters are read differently in different dialects, we don't know exactly how it was sung. But it looks like it was mainly Cantonese, with a few phrases from northern dialects thrown in. As you can see, there are also bits of pidgin English (chow chow = food, amah = maid, kamshaw = gift) and even a bit of pidgin French (com pan li vu = comment allez vous???). As far as we know this is the earliest example of a Cantonese song to include English in the lyrics (something that is now quite normal).

Here is Alice's translation. As the Chinese uses four syllable phrases, we've used some translator's licence to try to keep it four beats to the bar.

There is a girl, melon-seed face
She's in the east, I'm in the west
We are apart, what a pity
Call her right back, to see my face

You want honey, I want cents
Blow the whistle, blowing peep peep
Two houses TALKEE, choose a date

SHE WILL LOVE ME, she does love me
What's the trouble, it means WHAT FOR
April 24th, APRIL 24TH

GO TO PAREE, go to Paris
COM PAN LI VU, come over here
BEAUTIFUL DOLL, beautiful doll
Let me buy it, for you to see

WHO'S YOUR FATHER, who's your father?
He's my father, he's called BILLY
Your father-in-law, he's my daddy
He's got WHISKER, just like a sheep

He is stingy, STINGY FELLOW
POCKET EMPTY, empty pockets
THIRTY CENTS, buy a roast goose
And have a meal, don't be hungry

TOO MUCH CHOW CHOW, eat too much
Belly too small, what should I do?
Pray to sky god, he will bless me
Give us baby, as a KAM SHAW

GET ONE AMAH, hire a maid
Care for baby, grow up quickly
Wash milk bottles, don't break any
Close the door, CLOSE THE DOOR

If I sing wrong, please forgive me
No education, I don't know much
Listen to this, just for a laugh
HAPPY NEW YEAR, Happy New Year

The song appeared in the September 1930 issue of New Moon Collection and is reproduced in Andrew Jones (2001) Yellow Music: Media Culture and Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age (Duke University Press). The original is in the Harvard-Yenching Library.

1 comment:

Dating Hong Kong said...

This is very interesting, I'd love to hear a recording of it to see what it sounds like. I particularly like the STINGY FELLOW lyric!