From Keroncong to Xinyao by the National Archives of Singapore documents the evolution of records globally and the growth of the nation’s music industry
Singapore, 12 September 2023 - A new publication, From Keroncong to Xinyao: The Record Industry in Singapore, 1903-1985, has been launched today, giving a first-ever detailed account of record production in Singapore. The book traces the history, triumphs, and challenges of Singapore’s vibrant music industry, and explores how it was once a major recording hub in Southeast Asia. The book is written by Australian sound archivist, record collector, historian, and author Ross Laird, and published by the National Archives of Singapore (NAS), an institution of the National Library Board (NLB).
Over 16 chapters, the book gives an account starting from the early pioneers and innovators of the industry, to the growth of the local music industry between the 1960s and 1980s. Records made during this musical heyday encompassed diverse genres, from Malay keroncong to Chinese opera, pop songs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
For Mr Laird, much of the research for this book was anchored on the NAS’s collection of pre-1990s commercial music records, as well as other resources from the NLB. He said: “As a sound archivist, this topic is close to my heart. I am thrilled to be able to research and share my findings on the diverse musical culture of the region between 1903 and 1985, and how Singapore’s record industry played a big part in that. I am grateful to have had the support from the National Archives of Singapore, and the National Library, in this journey of discovering the hidden history of Singapore’s record industry. I hope the stories will interest and inspire more to want to know about the recording history here, and share their Singapore Stories about it too!”
At the launch, author Ross Laird will also give a talk on “The Entertainment Silk Road”, where he noted that the movement of culture and entertainment artists and groups was in tandem with long-established trade routes, also known as the Maritime Silk Road, during the 1860s to 1960s.
Ms Julia Chee, Director, National Archives of Singapore, said: “From Keroncong to Xinyao provides rich insights into a relatively unexplored aspect of Singapore’s recording history, and adds another dimension to our understanding and knowledge of the Singapore story. We are proud to have worked with Ross to put together this fascinating account, and we hope to continue inspiring more Singapore Storytellers through our archives and collections at the NAS and NLB, as part of our LAB25 (Libraries & Archives Blueprint 2025) goals.”
For more information on the book, please visit https://go.gov.sg/rosslaird-theentertainmentsilkroad
About Ross Laird
Ross Laird is an Australian sound archivist, record collector and historian who has had a long interest in the history of the international record industry. He previously worked with the Australian National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra and worked in Hong Kong for Cable TV. He began spending time in Singapore in 2004 and was a Lee Kong Chian Research Fellow at the National Library of Singapore in 2010. His published works include Sound Beginnings: The Early Record Industry in Australia and The Sixties: Australian Rock and Pop Recordings,1964–1969.
About the National Library Board
The National Library Board (NLB) nurtures Readers for Life, Learning Communities and a Knowledgeable Nation by promoting reading, learning and history through its network of 28 libraries, the National Library and the National Archives of Singapore. NLB also forges strategic partnerships that encourage awareness, appreciation and greater discovery of Singapore's history through its rich collections in Singapore and the region.
NLB achieves excellence through innovation, focusing on citizen engagement and co-creation, resource and digital innovation. This creates learning opportunities, greater access to library resources, services, and archival collections, as well as a continual development of innovative library spaces. Established on 1 September 1995 as a statutory board, NLB is under the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI).