An introduction to the music scene
in Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore
in Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore
"In the Sixties, Mainland China was busy with the Cultural Revolution, which branded Rock & Roll as a sign of Western decadence. Nevertheless, the "Beat Wave" hit big in two Chinese territories that remained open to British influence, Hong Kong and Singapore.
The Beatles concert in Hong Kong in 1964 marked the birth of the golden age of the Hong Kong pop scene. From 1964 to 1969, a great number of bands appeared. They sung in English, as Cantonese and Mandarin songs were considered to be old fashion. These bands normally did cover versions of songs from the UK or the US. This scene reflects the multicultural diversity of the city. Musicians of different nationalities were active in the Hong Kong band scene: Chinese, British, Swedish, Macanese, Portuguese, Pilipinos, Singaporeans and Indians, among others. The most popular venues for stage shows and gatherings for youngsters in Hong Kong and Kowloon were called "Tea Dances".
These weekend afternoon dance parties took place in night clubs and Chinese restaurants, providing Hong Kong bands with an opportunity to play live. Major bands were signed by Diamond, a subsidiary label of Polydor: Teddy Robin & The Playboys, The Mystics, Joe Jr. & The Side Effects, Menace, Lotus, Anders Nelson & The Inspiration, The Fabulous Echoes, D'Topnotes, Mod East, Magic Carpets, Danny Diaz & The Checkmates, to name a few. EMI on the other hand concentrated on the Mandarin song market, recording artists from the Shaw Brothers (the largest Hong Kong Movie company), such as Connie Chan (Chan Po-chu), Josephine Siao (Siao Fong-fong) and Nancy Sit, who recorded Chinese versions of international hits.
Bands who joined EMI were relatively less active and less successful in the market: Thunderbirds (whose lead singer Robert Lee, was the brother of Kung Fu star Bruce Lee), Thunders (from Macau, the only band that successfully crossed over to Hong Kong in the 60s), The Reynettes (who were a Filipino brother and sisters group), The Quest, from Singapore, who were stationed in Hong Kong in 1968. Most of the bands disbanded in 1969. In the 1970s. Teddy Robin, Joe Jr and Sam Hui (of Lotus) all became solo singers. Yet the glory days were over. In the mid 1970s, Sam Hui single-handedly invented a new Canto-pop market. It proved to be very successful in the coming years, thus putting a final stop to the so called "Golden Band Era of Hong Kong".
Here, groups were formed, signed, with records being released weekly. Furthermore, in multicultural Singapore bands were playing music but singing them in English (which was the major language), Malay and Chinese. Therefore fans had three streams to choose from. Cliff Richard and The Shadows played a concert in Singapore in late 1961 and that marked the beginning of the Beat group era with bands which were strictly instrumental. Most times, singers were an adjunct to the band.
The arrival of the Beatles in 1963 changed the emphasis from the instrumental band scene to self-contained units with singers and instrumentalists, although strictly instrumental bands flourished for a long time yet in Singapore – as there was a need for instrumental music in many situations.
Singapore's musical scene was a mix of different influences sung in English, Malay and Chinese. They ranged from popular bands like Quests who came from the early Sixties era, Naomi and The Boys who had a successful four year run, Antartics who personified the second wave of R&B tinged groups, then Malay groups like D'4 Ever, Les Kafila's, Mike Ibrahim and The Nite Walkers, Swallows, Ismail Haron and The Guys and two guests from Thailand - Dynamics and Fox.
The music ranges from Pop R & B, early Heavy to the plain weird. It is a mix of Western influences and Asian ethnic diversity produce something unique that can only be called Singaporean pop."