History of Shidaiqu

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History of Shidaiqu, a modern jazz fusion genre that started in the 1920s and lastet until the 1960s.

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Author Wiki Users
English title History of Shidaiqu
Publication Music-China.org
Date of publication

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History, Shidaiqu


Shidaiqu lasted from the early 1920s to the late 1960s.

In Shanghai shidaiqu was regarded as Chinese popular music beginning in the 1920s. Its heyday was in the 1940s, then died out in 1952 when the Communist banned nightclubs and pop music production. The tradition moved to Hong Kong and reached its height from the 1950s to the late 1960s, when it was replaced by the Taiwanese pops (sung in Mandarin) and later cantopop. While it is considered a prototype, music enthusiasts may see it as early version of mandopop. Li Jinhui is the founder of shidaiqu along with chinese popular music. The western jazz influence were shaped by American jazz musician Buck Clayton. Nowadays, shidaiqu inspired Gary Lucas for his album "the Edge of Heaven". On the other hand, if cinema was at the origin of many songs, Wong Kar Wai used them again for illustrating his movie "In the Mood for Love"; Rebecca Pan, one of the actresses in this film, was also one of theses famous shi dai qu singers. Last but not least, as Mainland and Hong Kong were original areas, Japan shouldn't be neglected in the story of shi dai qu, due to one of the famous singers, Yoshiko Yamagushi (aka Li Xianglan).

In 1916 Pathé opened a record factory in Shanghai, during a period where traditional Chinese folk songs and opera dominated the scene, but not for long. Real change appeared as soon as composers like Li Jinhui since 1920 did take the first steps to popularise Chinese music. At First, through children songs in Mandarine dialect was promoted as the national language. At the same time modern (western) values were adopted and promoted. Through the increasing popularity of the gramophone player and radio, these children songs would soon grow out into a sophisticated new genre which included a variety of western influences like jazz and blues.[1]

With Pathé Shanghai became the centre of Music production for the whole South East Asia. Mandarine songs were recorded locally and then send to Shanghai for production and distribution. The company also maintained very narrow links with the rising film industry. Their mutual cooperation and reciprocal input were natural and obvious. The first Chinese movie with sound (the musical ' The singing Peony') runs parallel with the fusion of Pathé with the new EMI (Electrical and Musical industries) around 1931. The legendary Pathé cock image would shine on nearly all records of the still legendary Shanghai film movie stars. The movie stars themselves, from musicals, released their songs to become successes. Now a constant stream of filmstars and singers, both booming industries were closely entwined with one another.[1]

With the move from the musical scene from Shanghai to Hong Kong in 1950, the shidaiqu transformed the style further under the increasing Western influence. Mandarine and now also Cantonese national anthems merged with new genres like the American mambo and rock ' n roll. Chinese adaptations of North American hits, sung in English, became more and more populair. The Chinese character was preserved with the addition of swinging Hollywood rhythms. [1]

At first the shidaiqu genre, looks back to Shanghai with nostalgia, but soon it becomes adapted to fresh new impulses in this new biotope. At first the moved Shanghai diva’s dominated the Hong Kong scene. Many stars who had a successful career in Shanghai picked up their new life in Hong Kong well and even increased in popularity. But a new generation was already emerging, who’s main roots were the American Hollywood style and movie films with sound rather than Chinese operas and children songs. Already in 1950 the shidaiqu genre is renewed with life, a fresh cocktail of Shanghai tunes mixed with new genres like rock 'n roll and exotic rhythms like mambo, chachacha turning Hong Kong into the new Hollywood of the East. Also North American hits increased popularity while keeping its Chinese character to the swinging Hollywood rhythms.[1]

In the late 60s the dominance of popular Mandarine songs came to an end in favour of English songs.[1]

In 1970 this recent development is moved further, with the rise of ‘Cantopop’, sung in Chinese Cantonese dialect, becoming a direct competitor for the Mandarine popular music. Never the less, Mandartine popular Music had deserved its place as being the prototype of contemporary Chinese music. [1]

Further information


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 SHIDAIQU, AN EARLY CHINESE POPULAR MUSIC STYLE THAT FLOURSISHED IN THE 20S->50S IN SHANGHAI, CHINA AND WHICH EVOLVED FURTHER IN THE 50S->60S IN HONG KONG, see http://www.psychemusic.org/shanghai-hongkong.html