The “Opium Song”

Some time back I was walking through a shopping centre, it was during a Chinese festival and an electronics shop was playing on their televisions the MTVs of several Chinese festive songs. It was then I thought I heard a song which mentioned the words “鸦片” (opium). That’s odd, how could there even be song singing about opium, the highly addictive and dangerous drug? And that such a song could actually be allowed to play on Singapore airwaves? Surely the draconian Singaporean entertainment censorship board would have caught such a lapse in censorship and not allow such a song to be broadcast. The very mention of the word “opium” in a song could possibily be perceived as a glorification or promotion of a drug culture, and it would be just as bad as that “rehab song” by the recently dead wine singer. Oh my…

Back home, I asked my Dad if he had heard of the “opium song”, that song sounded rather old so maybe he might have heard it before. My Dad couldn’t figure out what am I talking about, and likewise he seriously doubted that such an “opium song” could be allowed to play in Singapore, the government would have banned it straightaway! He then suggested that I might have heard the song wrongly. Unfortunately, I was not able to remember the tune of the “opium song” such that I could humm it for my Dad to identify. But I resolved to try to remember how the “opium song” sounds like if I ever heard it again, and ask my Dad about it.

It wasn’t easy. At times I actually got to hear the song being played somewhere during the day, only to let its tune slip my mind by the time I returned home. Finally, after several months, during yet another festive season I got to hear the “opium song” being broadcast from a loudspeaker at a temple. I made myself remember its tune by repeating it to myself all day! Returning home, I hummed the tune for my Dad to listen, and he immediately recognised it! He has the song somewhere in his CD collection.

The song in question is entitled “叮嚀” (“Advice”), it’s a 1930s Chinese song famously sung by the singer Zhou Xuan (周璇) and more recently by other singers, it is usually sung as a duet but can also be sung as a single. Its main theme is about a girl’s boyfriend having to go overseas to work, and that she should not get into trouble by becoming addicted to opium. Somehow back then it was quite okay to sing openly about drugs and warn against drugs and other vices. You can listen to the song at the below link.

The lyrics with the “opium” word happens at 2:19, and it goes: “… 望情妹切莫吸鸦片, 鸦片香烟费金钱…”, which roughly translates to “… think of your girlfriend, must never smoke opium, opium and cigarettes waste money…” Somehow I must have only selectively heard the words: “…吸鸦片, 鸦片香…” which if taken out of context of the song means “smoke opium, opium smells sweet!” No wonder I thought that it was some “opium song” promoting the nasty habit of taking drugs!

You know, this entire episode has inspired me to rewrite the song such that it really is a song that glorifies and promotes smoking opium. Try singing my lyrics to the tune!

“鸦片香, 鸦片甜, 鸦片又香又甜, 快来吸鸦片! …吸鸦片, 鸦片香…”

Now that’s a song that is askin’ to be banned!

One Response to The “Opium Song”

  1. Interesting ! I posted yesterday a recording of Zhou Xuan on my blog, devoted to old 78rpm records, the song is called 襟上一朵花, you can listen to it here :

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