As music makers around the world learnt how to use the gramophone, China joined in on the fun too. Its first ever recorded song was produced in March 1903, in the city of Shanghai, and the move sparked the flames of the local music industry.
Then the 1920s rolled by, and with it came two major changes.
At the time, standard Mandarin was considered educated and dignified compared to the commonly used dialects. Many cultural products in China began to use the language, and the music from Shanghai produced from this era onwards was all recorded in standard Mandarin.
Mandarin popular music of this era also developed a particular style—a unique blend of Western jazz and Chinese folk music. This music was aptly called Shidaiqu (時代曲), or “songs of the time”, reflecting the style’s popularity during this period.
Its fusion of Western and Chinese themes aside, Shidaiqu was special for the way it was sung. Often performed by female singers, its songs feature very-high-pitched singing, which some might describe as “childlike”; others, less kind, have said it resembles “a cat being strangled”. The 1927 hit “The Drizzle” (毛毛雨), widely regarded as the first Chinese popular song to ever exist, features this style prominently: