Wilma Pang, Professor at San Francisco City College

[00:00:02] Ok am Wilma Pang and I teach at City College. I teach music. I teach in music like music appreciation and theory. That’s my basic courses. But I have been in the community the Chinese community for orgy over 30 years and I’m quite active in the Chinese community organizing programs particularly musicians to perform on streets of Chinatown. Yes. I organized them to play there last year and during the stars three years ago and Chinatown was abandoned.

[00:00:52] What happened was I personally engage in pay for the Lion dances to perform every every evening to drum up people to come back to Chinatown.

[00:01:05] At the same time I organized the musicians to perform in a particular spot and the musicians they chose to play in front of the Golden Dragon because they liked that spot at all also the owner or the manager of the Golden Dragon and they really you know you really like them to be there. Tim Lee was the manager of the Golden Dragon so I know the music very well and we do perform also last year in 2004. We perform at City College.

[00:01:41] I asked them to accompany me to play some you know Cantonese music and I sang some folk songs for the concert.

[00:01:53] I speak Cantonese and I speak Mandarin but I grew up in San Francisco’s Chinatown. So naturally Cantonese is the main dialect here.

[00:02:07] Well I consider myself more American Chinese but I have a very mixed background and I lived all over the map when I was a child. We lived in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia. But my family always spoke Cantonese and then then I grew up in Hawaii. In my sort of my background, I could have said that you know I never really was interested in Chinese but I was intensively interested in the Chinese culture and the Chinese language and history. And I merge myself in this particular culture Chinese culture. And when I graduate from high school from Hawaii I came in service to San Francisco without my parents permission of course they didn’t like the idea. But I want to come here to study to be in the community. So I guess one of the very few, back in the 60s 70s, to do this expedition because I think most of the people were more involved in the Western culture and Elvis Presley. And I really wanted to be in the community and I’ve done a lot since then and the community really knows me well and they know that I do care about them.

[00:03:41] I sing and I used to play several instruments Hu Chin and a little bit of the Yangqin or the butterfly harp.

[00:03:51] But since I’ve been involved in so many other things that what I do is just I gave up my instruments but I still sing Yes.

[00:04:02] Mainly lately is the Chinese you know instrumental ensemble I call them to play at the Golden Dragon and now they do play on Saturday nights at the night market. And I think the night market should stop in December. However they’ve been doing it for a while and sometimes have placed them in commercial, commercial alley on Grant Avenue. And I’m thinking about in the near future maybe next summer if I get enough money that I like to probably have them play the St. Mary’s. Old St. Mary’s Cathedral on a regular basis like maybe twice a week. Yes Fred Fung and Wu Wei who plays the erhu. And there are others like Lawuence Lee who plays the pi’pa. And it’s it’s more like whoever is available whoever is interested. Well I mean they do have many different names like the Lawrence Lui because that music gathering and there was a guy named Michael A door dog ensemble and. But see I think there’s no real solid group. People do join in when they can, and they form different names. But that’s, but that’s not the issue. They play mainly Cantonese music popular music and not lengthy opera but excerpts from the Cantonese opera. Fred is quite versatile. Many plays other types of music but the other musicians they they play a lot more Cantonese in the Cantonese style. And what’s the difference there is intonation involved when a yangqin.

[00:06:14] But the erhu who are with the erhu the string fiddle they make the intonations a little bit different say from regular, maybe classical Chinese music. (Chinese word) is one of the two that I know they play and they can sing to that too. That is it’s probably more in the 50s 60s era. The Cantonese tunes. Yes. It’s not. It’s not really old music because that time in Hong Kong that’s probably the golden age of Cantonese opera. And because of that and there is a composer named Tung Duc Sung he wrote beautiful opera scores and beautiful lyrics.

[00:07:09] And after the 60s 70s begin to decline but at that time during the 50s 60s 70s there were quite a few Cantonese tune written with Cantonese flavor because I think at that time the Mandarin songs predominate predominately from maybe from Taiwan. And it’s hard to translate the Mandarin songs into Cantonese so that Cantonese is kept separate category.

[00:07:48] And they write their own lyrics and own songs instead of avoiding translating the Mandarin pop songs to Cantonese. And it didn’t work for the longest time. It was well known well Cantonese cannot cannot sing any of the standard Mandarin songs. However in the 80s all of a sudden there was a Sammy Hue who he came out with some popular Cantonese tunes. They’re not Cantonese traditional base music but regular folks in that hands of pop songs and he became very popular in Hong Kong. Consequently after the 80s Cantonese pop songs became popular. Now this is a separate six separate category. However nowadays still playing the the Fred Fung’s and Wei Wu. They play the traditional I call it tradition back in the 50s 60s 70s like “Thunder in a Drought.” This is probably more traditional type of music. And you know to say hey the one I mentioned is quite popular and set in two Cantonese lyric it goes something like this.

[00:09:24] I remember this is (Chinese name) now (sings)that da da da da da da. Da. Da. Da da. Da da da da.

[00:09:54] This is very Cantonese folk or opera tunes so it is still very popular. It’s a separate category from the music. Nowadays you hear is more like more like I would say Michael Jackson but so it was just regular pop songs. So the one I demonstrated is more. Semi opera in the 50s 60s. Yeah is it because it reconstituted you know it’s not it’s not something brand new. I would say it’s probably I could stick to my stories the 50s 60s and there was Loe Mansingh (sp?) this guy who compose quite a few tunes and is still very popular today. He is not somebody. Goes way back. It’s 50-60s. If the older tunes back in the like say the 40s there’s a famous opera singer named Sui Co Sing (sp?) It is a different period and that is probably the golden period of Cantonese opera. They’re not they’re not arias they’re you know simply some excerpts from from the press that he used to star in. So it’s something like. (Chinese word) that means he the wife is is one of his favorite a famous opera is the wife is a victim of the mother-in-law’s dumb dominance so and she’s very sick. And so and the husband is caught between pleasing the mother and loving his wife so something like. And it’s a tragic story but it was very popular in the in the 50s and 60s.

[00:12:09] Now this generation I don’t think it’s you know it’s hurt too often some of these too. I know the musicians still play yeah. That’s probably in the same period. Yes.

[00:12:26] This is probably a little more recent. That’s the one I’m talking about. (Sings.

[00:12:35] That’s more in the 60s in the 60s tunes. That is I would I would think they’re all from the same period then that something really new now maybe this one Tu Gwen (sp?) or the princes one child or one.

[00:12:58] Jyo Chung (sp?) is standard throughout China and the Cantonese love that particular tune. It is more. This is I would say goes way back. The tune is supposed to go back to about two thousand years that’s the Han dynasty. It was written by the princess name Wang Jyou Jung (sp?) and she is one of the four beauties of China. You know throughout history and she happened to be the most patriotic of beauty. She married to Mongolia in order to save the kingdom. And this one I would think I would rather think that is an ancient tune. It was supposed to be composed by her and is very well known in.

[00:13:52] (Sings in Chinese) This is it’s more in the ancient style I would probably call it.

[00:14:10] It’s probably Northern and it’s transplanted into the Cantonese tradition. Cantonese you know does take tunes from from different areas and make it to make into Cantonese music. Well it’s probably more still still Peking opera you know still haven’t really divorce the picking up yet and they base a lot of the Yee Wang (sp?) It’s a standard passage of the music is based on Peking Opera and Hong Kong and Canton since it’s situated closer to say Western culture and the rapid development of, and also the influence of Western music like the English and the others, made Cantonese music, even opera more adaptable to two different regions. And see while Peking opera has not changed that much. The tradition is still there, and I don’t imagine that they would take a saxophone and play in the Peking Opera. But Cantonese opera. Yes. You see other instruments like you know flat guitar or sometimes used. Whatever sounds good to the to the Cantonese. It goes. And sometimes you know you can hear a tune in the 50s 60s put in. “Oh Susannah.” You know even Western tunes so Cantonese music is probably more like the equivalent to jazz says something that you take something and then you make it into the music. Cantose music. Other regions like (sp?) and Peking Opera. I don’t imagine that they do things like that. Yes exactly. Yeah. Yes. And I know I’ve heard the Cantonese opera used tunes like “Oh Susannah.” “Clementine.” It’s just whatever the composer. Which is not known a lot of times added to it and make it nice too.

[00:16:32] Yes. Yes. That’s that’s probably if in China it’s a very popular tune. Yes. Even “Jingle Bells.” Oh yes. You know and especially “Aud Lang Syne.”

[00:16:46] You know. Yeah. But they change the lyric and make into Cantonese music. Let’s see. I can sing “Clementine” (sings it in Chinese) Something like that. The little little maiden with the flower basket. Something like that so right. (sings again in Chinese)

[00:17:18] Off hand I can’t really recall the lyrics but they can even make that funny funny like “Oh Susannah.” . Well anyway I can’t remember the lyrics but it can have very funny you can make it the very funny lyrics and however Cantonese language is a difficult language to translate. You can’t just take Mandarin lyrics and sing it in Cantonese. It doesn’t fit the language is very tricky to sing in. Oh I can’t tell you a story. The tune “Jasmine.” It’sa very popular folk tune and this particular folk tune is is used actually by Puccini’s theme song in the “Turandot” and that that’s that’s a story in turn of the century. It’s actually a folk tune. However when the immigrants came to this country some of these laborers you know casually when they were working days they sing something like this. (sings in Chinese)

[00:18:34] That. That’s that’s the Cantonese version. And the white workers didn’t know what they were singing. They asked them what is it that they couldn’t tell them you know express them what song it was probably don’t even know what what was the origin of the song. Ah that’s the national anthem of China in the Ching Dynasty.

[00:19:04] This particular tune called a folk tune called “Jasmine.” I think I read somewhere that when Puccini was in New York premiering the Butterfly and I think you heard from a jukebox about this particular tune he fell in love with this particular tune and then he used to this tune to write his very last opera an incomplete opera “Turandot.” No I’m telling another story because back in the late 1880s the Cantonese laborer came to this United States in a separate story about the same time and they were singing you know humming this particular tune. Da. Da da. Da da da da da. Da. Da da. This Cantonese version DA DA DA so.

[00:19:59] And oh a pretty tune and what is it. They couldn’t they couldn’t answer it. You know the people the person who asked him or them oh. OK. They make the jump to the conclusion it must be the national anthem of China back in the 1880s. (Chinese words) Yeah. So but so this is the county’s version. Like if it’s the versions we hear today with the folk song version is you. (sings in Chinese)

[00:21:03] That’s probably the version put She knew heard. And so talented it goes from Chinese folk song jumped to Italian. So they came out and and sing this music it’s it’s became Italian and it’s based on this throughout “Turandot” you hear this tune over and over. It’s a theme the theme song of “Turandot”. But the other story is that the Labor came and it came to the United States and the Cantonese the Cantonese had their own version. You know it’s similar based on the same tune that either.

[00:21:50] (laughs) Yes turn of the century because because I think Puccini died shortly after even you know he finished the opera.

[00:22:09] But another note is that the subject of Madame Butterfly it was based on a Japanese woman Cio cio San you know who fell in love with an American sailor and it’s based on Japanese music but the Turandot, his music is based a lot on this particular tune. And Turandot was never that popular until the. I think until in the 90s 1990s when China went when the opera was premiered in Beijing to the record attendance in Beijing.

[00:22:58] And since I teach music in college. So Madame Butterfly is not politically correct music but Turandot is you know why? Do you know the story of Turandot? See throughout history with Italian or Western opera that there is something always a woman who is dying for a man of love. That’s probably one of the themes of different operas and women’s group is “oh no we got to choose an opera that is different.” And the story of Turandot is that the princess or Chinese princess would only marry somebody who could guess her three riddles.

[00:23:44] And if you did not guess riddles, too bad your head would be rolling. So what happened is the stories that one person , the Prussian Prince guessed the the the riddles. But the story is that hey women do have power. So anyway this is this is something I’m sidetracking the story of opera. I don’t know.

[00:24:18] But I think even in Canton or in Hong Kong is that the preferred proverb, a recent version and opera was dying. But in San Francisco there is a flip side of the story because we’re not so much immigrants. I’m talking about the wealthier class who settled in San Francisco, the wives here. They probably wouldn’t say bored but the they go into singing operas hiring musicians in a music club and do it regularly and sing their favorite tunes or opera arias. And so there is something in San Francisco. You can see you can catch the opera performed by local Chinese. Here it is because the wealthier class, the Cantonese from Hong Kong. They this is something to do. Years ago housewives used to play Mahjong. I guess they got out of play Mahjong and want to sing Cantonese opera. And so the musicians do you know you can make coffee money I would say no living out of accompanying singers. That is a very active scene in San Francisco’s Chinatown but not not so much with Fred’s group but I think for its group they play traditional Cantonese music, not necessarily opera arias. There are opera clubs in San Francisco such as Waverly Place and Sacramento below Grant and during the day you may hear music there it’s probably housewives. They get together, hire musicians and spend the day entertaining themselves.

[00:26:26] Well not very sketchy. I know there is a principle of Cumberland church that he records or you probably know most knowledgeable about Cantonese music.

[00:26:43] Not so much Cantonese music but there is another category called Chants and he is authority on Cantonese chants and chants is a little different.

[00:26:54] They’re not exactly set in music but a chants story told by storytellers. Back in the 1930s and maybe before the before television or anything was invented. And back in the village and these especially women they were not able to read is the only form of entertainment. They hired each chanter and chanting the story that’s different. This is slightly different from music.

[00:27:38] But I can give you the name. (sings a chant in Chinese). This is a dialect. In the say Yapp (sp?) dialect.

[00:28:00] It’s half singing–it’s chanting you know consider chanting is the the range is not exactly you know a definite range.

[00:28:17] It’s according to the language hangs in look since say in WA lens he see you to think he found a way.

[00:28:32] This is probably more folk the way I’d do it but the chant I do have a huge collection of that chance. And they I was really hypnotized by that because the story is very very fascinating. You know it comes in volumes. From reading the book like you know telling the story to a special illiterate women (pause) what is it yeah it’s Yeah.

[00:29:04] And there is something like going back to to to to Rap in the opera as I’m going back to the same story was a (Chinese word) you know the bad guy and the and the mother in laws tells the woman it’s like maybe said to get lost in plain language. (speaks Chinese in opera style). So this is more within the the opera Oscar it’s got .

[00:29:39] So that’s that’s that’s more in the opera. It’s that really heard in Cantonese music. The music is talking about.The (?), the Greenville is probably a newer version of maybe some reconstructed to in the past but it’s not a single tune I can say that is sung today.

[00:30:05] The older version of Cantonese opera if I can remember it’s no longer really heard and see people like to do things they like to do and maybe they like to hear what they want to hear so they know. So it’s that something like you know Cantonese is not a very traditional group they stick to that tradition. Let’s put it that way. Well to tell you the truth I do sing I do sing in different styles and I sing. Probably more if I sing more in the pop style in the back in the 1930s and 40s based on a singer called Jo Schwen (?) in Shanghai and that’s my specialty.

[00:31:03] Shanghai this particular singer so happened to the Cantonese love for a song too and they incorporated into the Cantonese repertoire it goes something not jazz as probably this particular singer as her own very typical style of the Chiannan (?) which is Shanghai great area. It goes something. I know the Cantonese love this tune. (Sings in Chinese) This is probably more they can’t. Not not. Not Cantonese but Shanghai style but the Cantonese really liked this particular style and they put you know Cantonese lyrics to it.

[00:32:02] After 9/11 the Chinese are the Asian Americans never really pay attention to patriotic American patriotic songs at 9/11 so the Asian Americans were very afraid of being profiled. And we want to be seen as patriotic. All of a sudden one day you know I was asked by the Chinese radio station to do “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “America the Beautiful”. And they just love that song. The first time you know heard the Asian-American singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and I requested a request to do a CD to do American patriotic songs. And I’ve been known to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” very well as a matter of fact.

[00:32:58] The 49 is put out audition last a couple of months ago and I submitted my application. Out of 700 apply I was one of the 30 finalists to sing the Star-Spangled Banner. So I mean I do all sorts of things. And then my interest is basically you know split hair. I do Chinese and I do American and so was telling Michael (Johnson, the recording engineer) that when I go to Shanghai this well with Newsome I got requests to sing “I left my heart in San Francisco” in Victorian costume. So in that way whatever the aren’t in English you know I can I can do it in Chinese because years ago before George Corey passed away. He’s the composer of this tune. He asked me to translate into Chinese and it did singing in Chinese talking about 20-30 years ago. But you know I have forgotten what I saw how I sang it.

[00:34:02] But you know and I’m trying to refresh my memory before I go to Shanghai and then I’ll sing it you know in Chinese and in English.