In 1964, Filipino musician and songwriter Vic O. Cristobal (葛士培) and (I’m assuming Hong Kong) lyricist Ye Lü (葉綠) wrote a song called “Enjoy Yourself Tonight” (歡樂今宵) that was recorded by Billie Tam (蓓蕾).

Two years later, in 1966, the song was featured in the Shaw Brothers film, The Joy of Spring (歡樂青春).

A year later, in 1967, the song was recorded by Teresa Teng (鄧麗君) in Taiwan.

And it was also recorded in 1967 by Yvonne (梅子) and the Sparklers in Singapore.

This was just the beginning of this song’s “journey,” as it was recorded many more times. What I find interesting, however, is how quickly it spread across what I call the “Free Chinese World.”

The center of the Free Chinese World was Hong Kong and Taiwan, and to a lesser but still significant extent, Singapore. However, it also extended to places like Saigon, Bangkok, Manila, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Ipoh, Kuching and other places where there were large populations of Chinese (outside of Communist China).

The culture of the Free Chinese World spread first among Chinese, but other than Hong Kong and Taiwan, all of these other areas of the Free Chinese World were either multi-ethnic, or the Chinese were a minority in the place where they lived.

Given that culture can never be contained, my sense is that the culture of the Free Chinese World must have had a strong influence on music, film, architecture, fashion – the list goes on and on – of other peoples in this region.

Think about it, all it took was for someone like Yvonne and the Sparklers to perform “Let’s Go Gay” (as the song was translated on their album) at a place like the New World Amusement Park in Singapore, and it was easy for people of other ethnicities and nationalities to hear the music, see the dancing, observe the clothes and. . . get inspired.

As far as I know, this type of “inter-Asian cross-fertilization” is something that people have not studied all that much. Much attention has been focused on the cultural exchange between “the West” and “Asia,” but less has been devoted to looking at how cultural ideas spread through spaces like the Free Chinese World, and beyond.

Try listening to the song. Your body will immediately start to move. A song like this couldn’t have remained contained among Chinese. Other people in Southeast Asia in the 1960s must have decided to “go gay” too.

Yvonne

Here are the lyrics:

喂喂 你說甚麼我不知道

Wei wei, what you’re saying – I don’t get it

嗨嗨 不要提起明朝

Hei hei, don’t mention tomorrow morning

你給甚麼 喂喂 你給甚麼我都不要

What you’re giving – wei wei – what you’re giving, I don’t want it

嗨嗨 只要歡樂今宵

Hei Hei, just enjoy yourself tonight

我們要忘卻煩惱

We want to thoroughly forget our troubles

我們要盡情歡笑

We want to completely laugh with joy

來來來你我在一起快樂消遙

Come on, come on, come relax and have fun with me

你不要嚕囌又嘮叨

Don’t jabber on and on

你不要哭哭又笑笑

Don’t keep changing your mood

有甚麼話留著到明朝

If you have something to say, leave it until tomorrow morning

喂喂 你說甚麼我不知道

Wei wei, what you’re saying – I don’t get it

嗨嗨 不要提起明朝

Hei hei, don’t mention tomorrow morning

只要歡樂今宵

Just enjoy yourself tonight