Back Arts & Culture » Music & Art » [Video] Check out David Bowie's 1983 Tour of Southeast Asia

[Video] Check out David Bowie's 1983 Tour of Southeast Asia

If you're at all human – or, for that matter, alien – you heard of the passing of David Bowie last week. The prolific musician was not only celebrated for his unique sound and chart-topping hits but his array of ever-changing personas, from Ziggy Stardust and Major Tom to Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke and Jareth the Goblin King. Though Bowie, who succumbed to an 18-month battle with cancer just two days after his 69th birthday, is no longer with us, the iconic pop star managed to leave behind an incredible mark.

While Bowie fans the world over are giving the musician a proper send-off this week, it's perhaps a lesser-known fact that Bowie made a handful of Southeast Asia stops on his 1983 Serious Moonlight tour.

At a time when internationally renowned musicians weren't exactly lining up to perform in our neck of the woods, Bowie hired a film crew helmed by director Gerry Troyna, booked dates in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok and stepped into a world still learning his music.

The resulting film, Ricochet: Serious Moonlight Tour 1983, was part documentary, part fiction and catalogued his 10 days in the region. Throughout his visit, Bowie holds press conferences and wades through seas of adoring fans like any superstar would do, but he also talks politics with a Singaporean cabbie, hangs out with socialites in Hong Kong and visits a Thai shaman.

According to film historian and author Benjamin Slater, Bowie's Singaporean performance was particularly tense, as the government at the time did not take kindly to his brand of pop music. Several of Bowie's hits, including “China Girl” and “Modern Love” were banned on the radio, Slater writes on his blog. The star's promoter was even threatened with imprisonment after police caught wind of a rumored guest appearance prior to the official show.

Up until the moment Bowie set foot onstage, the entire crew had misgivings about whether the show would be permitted to continue or not. But the resulting performance, one of the largest concerts ever put on in Singapore at the time, ends well for the star and his Singaporean fans. 

By the time he reaches Bangkok, easily the least-developed destination on his tour schedule, Bowie pays a visit to a local shaman:

Throughout all three chapters, however, what's most fascinating is the moment in time. Ricochet not only documents the travels of a massive international star visiting a very different part of the world, but also captures the look and feel of Southeast Asia in the early 1980s.

Travel safe, Major Tom. We'll miss you.

Partner Content