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Was S’pore xenophobic in the 1970s?

Posted on 16 March 2013

Yes, we used to ban foreigners from coming in based on their looks. True story.

With all the talk about xenophobia and having the term tossed around like used rubber these days, it is easy to forget that Singapore went through a different phase of foreigner revulsion in the past.

Robert Plant, front man/ demi-god of Led Zeppelin.

Robert Plant, front man/ demi-god of Led Zeppelin.

Four decades ago, in the 1970s, Singapore authorities barred acclaimed British God/ rock star Robert Plant and his band Led Zeppelin from entering Singapore to hold a concert.

Not once. But twice.

Immigration officers denied the group entry supposedly on the grounds that their hair was too long. And there was a genuine fear of cultural contamination due to their association with “yellow culture“, a term basically referring to anything to do with the so-called “unsavoury” elements of Western culture.

Another victim of the “no long hair” rule? Believe or not, it was clean-living pop idol Cliff Richard.

He too was barred from entering Singapore last time to play a concert due to his mane.

Get in the priority queue, monks!

Get in the priority queue, monks!

And if you thought cases like these were quirks of a long-distant past, well, you’re wrong.

Because as late as 1985, Singapore was still barring foreigners from entering the country based on their looks and there was still a reluctance to accept that looks was anything but superficial.

Anyone familiar with music composer Kitaro? He was once barred from entering Singapore as a goodwill ambassador for Japan’s World Exposition in 1985.

The good news is that times have changed, somewhat.

Robert Plant, now 64, is back for next week’s Timbre Rock & Roots festival. (Woooooo hooooooo!)

How ridiculous right? To look back now and notice the kind of inconsequential nonsensical bullshit our government used to worry about.

Robert Plant, aged 64

Robert Plant, aged 64

This post was written by:

- who has written 2685 posts on New Nation.

Wang Pei can be considered a new citizen of Singapore. She has been here all her life, just that her environment's changed beyond recognition.

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