This article explores the interactions and tensions arising from a vibrant Canto-pop industry exported from Hong Kong to an interventionist nation-state of Singapore bent on discouraging the use of dialects by its ethnic Chinese population. Aside from highlighting the roles of technological and commercial factors behind the regional music networks, it seeks further to position this contemporary relationship within the larger historical and cultural context. The cultural politics involved here is not just an isolated phenomenon between two different cities. More importantly, the language policies of the Singapore government represent a haunting replication of the perennial attempts by central authorities in China to impose a more standardised linguistic and cultural identity on its dialect-speaking peripheries. This identity is based on not just the court language of Mandarin, but notions of ‘Chineseness’. This article goes on to question the extent to which Canto-pop could help foster a more hybridised identity transcending both the current dictates of the modern Singaporean state and the imagined cultural boundaries of a more historically entrenched Sino-centric realm.
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