Sunday, February 11, 2007

Scenes - Sarikei CNY Singing Contests 1970s-80s

Sarikei CNY Singing Contest 1977
Source: Sarikei Music and Drama Society magazine

uring the 1970's-80's, the highlights of every Chinese New Year (CNY) was the Chinese singing contest at the old basketball stadium (now demolished) next to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. After an overdose of bai nien ("new year visits" in Chinese), Sarikei folks would buy a ticket at the small wooden booth and hang out at the stadium to hear contestants belt out golden oldies and latest pop songs. Every now and then, special requests for veteran singers (not the contestants) were allowed. Many rural folks would hang out at the stadium for the whole day and only break for kopitiam (coffeeshop) refuel.

Sarikei CNY Singing Contest 1979. Find Lee Chai Xia
Source: Sarikei Music and Drama Society magazine

There was good competition between the top singers in town. That was before karaoke was invented and the few radio stations were on noisy AM band. Aspiring singers had to hunt for lyrics which may or may not come with the cassettes (no CD or DVD then!). They had to fast forward and rewind the tape for rehearsals till the tape got worn out. The most famous rivalry had to be in the late 1970s between Janet Lee Chai Fong 李采霞(whose tidbit shop, Chai Mee, was next to Rex cinema) and another Foochow lass (who lived in a block of shophouses next to Nyelong River's marine police). Lee Chai Fong went on to gain fame in Malaysia with her cassettes that came with her own hai pow (posters in Chinese). Lee also performed for a while in a local pub in the 1980s after settling down for marriage. It's not easy to be a star in Sarikei. Heads turned when she walked past.

Sarikei CNY Singing Contest 1984
Source: Sarikei Music and Drama Society magazine

Chinese New Year is just not the same when the annual contest stopped for unknown reason. Does anyone know? The annual CNY fun fair is not in the same league of entertainment as the singing contests of the old days. The CNY singing contest needs to be revived as part of the festive season. Then the next Sarikei Idol can come out of the shower.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for starting this blog, your archives brought to me some recollection, nostalgia, memories, musing over what happened back then.

Now I miss having to cycle close to the old basketball court to hear a few songs outside the court.

Sim Y said...

All that singing competitions. My brother was champion before.

Singing competition should be started before CNY time (?)Used to be packed with people. The bicycles, motor bikes, cars will jam pack the road, just like during basketball games. Remember having all those troubles trying to get my bicycle out from the deep.

How those days will gone.

Kanga said...

CNY singing competitions have drawn big crowd. 'Jam pack' was norm. The basketball court is now gone but replaced by a supermart. It also draws big crowd during CNY. Try visiting this place on CNY eve and you will find traffic jam! especially if you join the last minute shoppers who arrive from out station with all their 4-wheel-drives in the evening to load up. Ah! different times, same location, different crowd.

burunghelang said...

Met 龚世光 in Sydney many years ago.

Daniel Yiek said...

Happy CNY! I heard that the CNY singing contest stopped because there were alternative singing contests and no one stepped up to organise the CNY singing contest when the old guards stopped.

I'm back in Sarikei with not much internet access and ... feasting a lot. Blogging shall resume when I get back to my desk.

I think the Firefox browser issue could be due to the conversion to the new blogspot beta. Let me try to fix it later.

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