* Studio * Mimi * Studio * Mimi 

Radio Nanyang

Studio Mimi is the collaborative archival studio of Scarcesounds and Holiday Maker Records, the studio from where Radio Nanyang broadcasts.

It's named after the resident cat, Mimi, who hates loud noises, but likes music...

The Studio Mimi Archive is the collection of Asian vinyl and shellac records which are the source of the recordings heard on Radio Nanyang and select upcoming Holiday Maker compilations, and their origins go back long before Mimi was even a kitten...

Developed over the last twenty years, the Studio Mimi Archive consists of thousands of rare Southeast Asian records from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Brunei, and other parts of Asia such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The archive also reflects an ongoing project researching the music industry in Southeast Asia in collaboration with the National Library of Singapore and the National Archives of Singapore, headed by Ross Laird aka Scarcesounds.

Who is Scarcesounds?

“I have been a record collector ever since I was a teenager in the 1960s. While I was at university in the late 1960s, I helped start Australia's first pop music newspaper, Go Set. During the 1970s and 1980s, I worked in public broadcasting and eventually joined the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra.

So, it would be fair to say I’ve had a lifelong career in music with a special interest in records and sound archiving. It was not until I worked in Hong Kong during the early 1990s that I discovered there was a whole new world of music and records I was unfamiliar with. This was my first experience in Asia, and living and working in Hong Kong for almost five years gave me plenty of time to fully explore what kind of records could be found there.

As an international city, Hong Kong was an especially interesting place to go record hunting because it was easy to find records from all over the world – the familiar names from the U.S., U.K. and other Western countries, plus a lot of Asian music from Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and elsewhere. The range of records was much more diverse than what I was used to seeing in Australia, and there were many artists and styles of music I knew little or nothing about.

I learned how to make contacts among the many record dealers and street stall sellers – essential for successfully doing any kind of business in Asia – and once they knew what I was interested in, those contacts would keep rare and unusual items aside for me, since I became a regular customer.

I also visited Singapore in the 1990s, but only briefly and I had no idea where to find records. The few I did find were mostly unfamiliar since I'd seen very few Singapore records while I was in Hong Kong. It was a shock to realise that even after years in Hong Kong there was so much more to learn.

In the late 1990s, I came back to Australia, but in 2004 I had the opportunity to return to Singapore, and over the last 20 years I've spent a lot more time there. Building on the skills I'd acquired in Hong Kong, I built up a network of contacts and began collecting all kinds of records.

As a long-time record collector, I was curious to learn more about this new world of recorded music. It quickly became apparent that there were many more small indie record labels in Singapore than existed in Hong Kong during the golden age of 1965–1975 when record activity in Asia was at its peak.

At that time there was very little information available about local artists or record labels, and even local collectors didn't seem to know much. As a professional sound archivist, I was able to see that there was a huge opportunity to explore and document an area that was clearly relatively unknown territory.

The basis for this research was to collect as wide a range of material as possible. Not just records but also photographs of bands and other local musical activity, record company publicity material, record catalogues, and anything else that would give a better understanding of the new sounds I was hearing for the first time. This collection is what eventually became the Studio Mimi Archive.

At first, all this was just a way of satisfying my own personal interests, but gradually as I built up this collection I became more serious about researching the Singapore record industry since there was not a single book available on that subject. After some years I had created a database listing every Singapore record label I had seen (there were several hundred), plus other Asian labels from Hong Kong, Taiwan and other countries which were also sold locally. My intention was to list all records that had appeared on each label in order to establish exactly what had been released.

As well as hunting for records and related items, I spent a lot of time in the National Library of Singapore looking for information about local artists and record labels. Senior staff at the Library became aware of my work, and in 2010 I was awarded a Lee Kong Chian Research Fellow at the National Library. This meant I was given my own work area and allowed access to every area of the library collections (even those not normally accessible to the general public). As a Research Fellow, I also received payment which allowed me to concentrate on my research in the library, and I spent time there most days of the week over an extended period.

This eventually led to me writing the first book on the history of the Singapore record industry, From Keroncong to Xinyao: The Record Industry in Singapore, 1903–1985, which covers the period from when the first commercial recordings were made in Singapore to the end of the vinyl era in the 1980s. The book was published by the National Archives of Singapore in 2023.” - Ross Laird aka Scarcesounds

Photos: Studio Mimi