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MP3 Monday: Far Out East

Sacco rings in the Year of the Horse with some deep cuts from his retro Chinese, folk, and funk collection. File under: "Groovy"
Last updated: 2015-11-09

MP3 Monday is a weekly SmartShanghai column, serving up mp3s from bands living and making music in China (or coming to China, or thinking about coming to China, or whatever). Copyright holders: if you would like your song removed, please email us here, and we'll honor your request promptly.

Xin nian kuai le, Shanghai! It’s my favorite time of year here in the city. As the rich foreigners head to Thailand or Indonesia and my trusty meat bun dealer heads back to Chengdu, I’m left alone to fend for myself. For those of you who have never stayed in Shanghai over the holiday imagine two weeks of a 12 Monkeys-like dystopia with feral giant pandas roaming the barren ice-cold streets. As I forage for food in any way possible (including live giant spiders) around this time of year, I like to make a Chinese psych pop funk playlist to keep my spirits up in the hopes that society will eventually return back to normal.

Here are some song selections from me to you I like to call "Ladies of the Far Out East" that will get you in the proper mood to face the horse head on. Some of these artist’s vinyl records are available on Taobao, however pickin's are slim. If anyone out there in SmartShanghailand has a hookup to find physical copies of these gems please post in the comments section.

Let’s get things started with a pop banger from mega icon Rebecca Pan (潘迪華). Originally from Shanghai, Mrs. Rebecca, also known as Pan Wan Ching moved to Hong Kong where she started putting out pop and folk at the tender age of 18 in the 1950’s. She later became a desired film star and now at 82 is still active in the Cantonese movie scene. This is an early 60’s up-tempo song that I think is about selling pancakes.

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Native born Hong Kong singer Chen Qiong Mei (陳瓊美) got caught up in the disco / funk scene in of the 1970s and 1980s. Qiong became famous doing soundtrack work for the many Hong Kong television dramas of the day. This song gets down to the nitty-gritty basics and does not spare on the sass.

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Here is a personal favorite from Taiwan singer Zou Juan Juan (鄒娟娟). This is a hard-hitting psych disco track that was sure to get all those Taipei clubs jumping back in the late 70’s. Man, can that back beat swing, enjoy!

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How about some Singaporean soul from artist Chuang Hsueh-Fang (莊雪芳). Born in Fujian province in the 1930’s, this songbird headed to Singapore, where she became a popular singer and actress. Most notably for her 1958 film The Wandering Songstress, which put Chuang on the map. Enjoy this Mandarin adaptation of the 60’s pop song "A Lover’s Concerto" originally from American band The Toys.

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Flaming lips and hips that don’t quit is what the 70’s Taiwanese pop star Liu Kun Lin (劉冠霖) is all about. After leaving the spotlight, Liu moved to Canada, where she raised three children. She later returned to the singing world with mainly gospel songs and some reunion concerts. Even Jesus himself couldn’t help but move his sandals to the beat of this swinging 70’s Taiwan disco track "Fire."

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The award for best pop name goes to none other than Singapore’s The Chopstick Sisters (筷子姐妹). One of the longest running acts in Asia, these ladies were also a mainstay of the gospel scene until singer Violet was killed in a car crash in 1994. Here is a funky pop piece that will get those chopsticks swinging back and forth in no time.

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Known as the "oriental Marilyn" (wait is that racist?) Tsui Tai Qing (崔苔菁) was one of the biggest Taiwanese singers in the 70’s and 80’s. Check out this little disco ditty from ‘76 that has a mean intro and a solid bass hook.

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Finally, we have another sister act in the form of Hong Kong duo Sum Sum & Pan Pan (森森 & 斑斑). The two ladies were part of the six-piece group called The Bumble Bees and later went on to be regulars in the Hong Kong cabaret 1970’s TV shows. Sum Sum is the lady in yellow and sings the lead on this funky disco song.

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That’ll just about wrap things up kids. If you see me walking down the street with my head shaved and screaming gibberish that’s just me acclimating. See you in two weeks!


This column is written by DJ Sacco, who runs Uptown Records, Shanghai's dedicated vinyl shop. Ironically, they don't sell Mp3s or dabble in anything digital, instead they have 7" and 12", EPs and LPs from rock to electronic, rare pressings, DJ equipment and band merchandise. Find them in an old bomb shelter at 115 Pingwu Lu.