Tan Chui Hua


In the days before cinema, bangsawan performances entertained the masses. Tan Chui Hua looks at the rise and fall of bangsawan venues in Singapore. “With a bottle of champagne broken on the door-step, the new Theatre Royal, in North Bridge Road, was opened officially on Saturday night, the Wayang Kassim’s Trip to Fairyland being staged before a packed house, the conclusion of the formal opening ceremony.” – The Straits Times, 15 June 1908 In the early decades of the 20th century, before the days of cinema, residents of Singapore eagerly flocked to bangsawan performances to be entertained. Performed in Malay, bangsawan featured acting and singing as well as music provided by a live orchestra. Back then, it was one of the few forms of mass entertainment available. Such was the draw of bangsawan in the pre-war years that people living in Tanjong Pagar would travel by bullock cart all the…

Pulsating music, strobe lights and postage-stamp dance floors packed with shimmying bodies. Tan Chui Hua gives you the lowdown on the history of the disco scene in Singapore.