International Touring

In exploring how international touring shaped the Asia Pacific region, Touring Variety begins with the network of artists touring through the nightclubs of Hong Kong between 1956 and 1965. Hong Kong in those years was a hub of international touring and the network of contact and co-appearance between touring artists converging in Hong Kong mapped a ‘world’ of international entertainment.

With over one thousand acts appearing in Hong Kong nightclubs between 1956 and 1965, it is not possible to know the nationality of each. But for those where national origin is known, the international representation is extensive. Newspaper advertisements and reports provide indications of nationality for just over half (737 out of 1,402, or 52%). Displayed on a map of the world, with Hong Kong as the hub, the origins of touring acts form three clusters.

Artists in Hong Kong nightclubs, 1956–65: counting acts by national origin, arranged on a world map.

There’s the central Asia-Pacific cluster with artists from the Philippines, Japan, China (and Greater China, explain), and Australia, and other countries in the region. Then there’s the European cluster, where artists from the United Kingdom are collectively out-numbered by artists from continental Europe. And the American cluster, dominated by the USA (although note that the USA is not dominant overall), with many artists from countries in Central and South America. 

Advertisement for Golden Phoenix, China Mail, 9 September 1960

Some nightclubs in Hong Kong — such as the Golden Phoenix and the Paramount — made a feature of presenting artists from different nations: Fredye Marshall, Stella Courtney, and Donna Kaye from the United States; Faye Fisher and Terry King from Australia; Manolo Cuerva, Giorgio de Giorgi, Cino Pallavicini, and Ernesto Velasquez from Europe; and Shelley Shaw from Ceylon and so on. Pallavicini sang in ‘English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Portuguese’, while the Fabulous Echoes, a pop group formed in Hong Kong with Ceylonese lead singer Cliff Foenander, four musicians from the Philippines, and a drummer from Scotland, played at both nightclubs.

Other nightclubs like the Champagne, in particular, specialised in local artists from the region: Chinese singers Billie Tam (蓓蕾), Chang Loo (張露), Kong Ling (江玲), Mona Fong (方逸華), Rebecca Pan (潘迪華), Tsui Ping (崔萍) and Ruby Wah (華怡保), who sang in Mandarin and English; and singers from the Philippines, Pete Cruzado, Pilita Corrales, Cristy Ortega, Thelma Toledo, Vic Cristobal, Jacinto Tiongco, Carmen Perina, and Lita Sotelo. The bandleaders and musicians were mostly Filipino, including Tony Arevalo, Eddie Bola, Celso Carillo, Fred Carpio, Ben Conti, Ising Gatchalian, Eddie Guzmen, Barry Yaneza, Lobing and his Manila Combo, and the Rocky Feller Combo.

In the nightclubs of Hong Kong, artists from different nations appeared in hundreds of different international combinations. At the Princess Garden, for instance, the Dalrays, an acrobatic-comedy duo from Australia, shared the bill with Hiroko the C Bomb, a dancer from Japan. At the Paramount, the Dalrays appeared with the Sing Lee Sing family from San Francisco, singer Ruby Wah from Singapore, American entertainer Billy Banks (who had been in Tokyo at the same time as the Dalrays), and the Paramount’s resident band, Giancarlo and his Italian Combo. At the Golden Phoenix, they performed with the Sherry Roses, a dance troupe from Japan, and again with Billy Banks.

Here is the network of artists who appeared at the Paramount (including the Dalrays) and all the other artists who worked there, animated to indicate their national origins on a world map.

International relations at the Paramount, Hong Kong, 1958–62: co-appearance of artists as a network, arranged by origin on a world map.

And here’s how it looks when I collapse the artists into groups by their place of origin – a map of the international contact and encounters between artists appearing at the Paramount nightclub. 

International relations at the Paramount, Hong Kong, 1958–62: co-appearance of artists, grouped by national origin, and arranged on a world map.

Here’s the same thing for all nightclubs in Hong Kong, where I have information on the origins of artists and acts for the period 1956 to 1965. The international relations encountered in the nightclubs of Hong Kong form a map of the world through which the artists were touring.

International relations in the nightclubs of Hong Kong, 1956–65: co-appearance of artists, grouped by national origin, and arranged on a world map.

Some observations about this world-map of international relations in the nightclubs of Hong Kong…

  • Indications of national origin proliferated in advertising, but they neither predicted nor guaranteed national authenticity in performance. While some acts specialised in national authenticity, many others traded in versatility, incorporating significations of more than one nationality within their acts.
  • For the most part, international relations in entertainment were forged through sequential co-appearance: acts from two or more different places appearing one-after-the-other within a nightclub’s evening of entertainment. But there were also acts in which artists from different places collaborated to performed together and some international collaborations were forged on tour, like Margo the Z Bomb from Puerto Rico dancing to Ollie Delfino from the Philippines on drums.
  • International relations were also embodied by solo performers – in particular, by singers whose repertoire included songs from a variety of languages and places. Mona Fong became known for singing songs in Mandarin and English. Pilita Corrales sang in Cebuano, English, Portuguese, Spanish and Tagalog. Pete Cruzado sang ‘Ol’ Man River’ from the musical Showboat, ‘Dahil Sa’yo’ in Tagalog, ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with a calypso beat, and 我要你的愛 (Wo yao ni de ai) in Mandarin in Sydney.

In fact, multinational repertoire is an artefact of network mobility – accumulated evidence of the international circulation of artists and their convergence in the nightclubs of Hong Kong – as in this recording from singer Frances Yip (葉麗儀).

Frances Yip, Discovery, 1974 – international repertoire mapping regional destinations in Cathay Pacific’s network.

Yip’s Discovery (1974) is a promotional album for Cathay Pacific with songs in different languages, each representing a destination in the airline’s network, an international repertoire attesting to the many artists from across the region and beyond who toured through the nightclubs of Hong Kong.

Data visualisations created in Visone.