As an overseas Teochew, you probably have at least one, or two, or more favourite Cantonese or Mandarin pop song that grew up with you. And sometimes as the familiar tunes play themselves in your mind, you wonder, why can't we have the same in Teochew?
The Teochew songs that we had always been exposed to, apart from Teochew opera ones that we may appreciate but cannot understand, were folk ballads that can be cringeworthy, if not downright weird, such as this “Six Strange Dreams":
Ahem... thankfully, things are not all that bad. You see, we Teochews are not only good humoured, our language is rhythmic, we are creative, adaptable and we can sing too.
Teochew Songs You'd Fall In Love With
Back in the days of vinyl records, there was a band in Singapore that called itself The Travellers (旅者樂隊) that provided live music for many famous Chinese pop singers, and occasionally belted their own songs in Teochew and Hokkien. Here is one of their 1980s classic "Teochew Porridge" (潮州糜).
From retro we move to the boy-band era of the 1990s, when Malaysia produced the B.M. Boys (山腳下男孩, literally "Boys from the Foot of the Hill"). Known for Mandarin compositions with distinctive local Malaysian influence, the B.M. Boys managed to cut the “Extraordinary Teochew Album" (非一般潮州專輯) in 1998 that contained a collection of sing-alongs, such as this "I Fell In Love With Next Door Ah Zhui's Second Daughter" (我愛上隔壁阿水家的二姑娘).
With the advent of the social media after the turn of the century, more and more Teochew music lovers, especially many living in China, were enabled to share new songs of their own that broke all old barriers. The charge was led by a rap group from Swatow, AFinger (一指團). Formed in 2003, the group's Teochew hip-hop pieces won many fans at home, before its fame began to spread abroad after the release of their first album in 2008. "Children of the Seaside" (海墘個孥仔) was one of their early hits.
2008 was also the year when the indie group Toy Captain (玩具船長) was formed. Uniquely, only one of the Toy Captain's four members, its lead singer, is actually a native of the Teochew region. Specifically Namoa island, where speech is in some parts heavily-influenced by Hokkien. Nonetheless, the Toy Captain's songs strongly reflect local life and sentiments, as this song "Brother, how have you been?" (兄台，你近来好吗？) demonstrates:
If rap and hip-hop are not your thing, other genres of Teochew songs are now fast appearing, such as:
Ballad: "Tea Language"(茶语):
Love song: "Walking Hand In Hand" (手牵手行)
Guitar Accompaniment: Teochew lullaby "Ong kin kong" (潮州摇篮曲:唪金公).
Acapella: "Old Men" (老禾埔)
Rock: “Small Town Teochew" (小城潮汕)
You may also be interested in:
- So You Think Teochews Can't Dance?
- Teochew Documentary: Dance of the Drums 鼓.舞
- A Brief Introduction to Tradition Teochew Music
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