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Daur folk singer finally finds her rhythm

XINHUA | Updated: 2023-09-15 08:16
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URUMQI — Cai Yuping, 60, still cherishes a fond childhood memory of listening to a traditional folk song of the Daur ethnic group titled Home of Colorful Clouds, which portrays a purple mountain valley encircled by a long and blue river and golden fields dotted with silver pastures.

Born in the only Daur ethnic township in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Cai first heard the song from her parents, who would play the harmonica and dance to the music after a long day of farming.

As a child, Cai showed great talent for singing and dancing, and dreamed for many years of becoming a performer. However, her parents did not support the idea of her following such a career path, and so it was only in her 40s that she was able to fulfill her passion for the performing arts.

Having already married and raised her children, Cai joined a local troupe that specialized in the folk arts of her ethnic group, finally becoming an amateur performer.

"Even after so many years, I have never forgotten my love of singing and dancing," she says, adding that she is now dedicated to protecting and passing on the folk music of the Daur people. She collects and archives old songs, as well as adapting existing songs and writing new ones.

The Daur ethnic group has a long history, mainly residing in China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region in the north and Heilongjiang province in the northeast. Some others, including Cai's family, live in the city of Tacheng, Xinjiang.

In 2008, the Daur folk song was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage of China, while those folk songs in Tacheng became a regional intangible cultural heritage in Xinjiang in 2018.

"When it comes to how to promote the folk songs, my idea and practice is to create some new accompaniment to them — adding rhythms and instruments that are trendy and popular with young people, in order to help them appreciate the old songs, while writing beautiful and moving lyrics," Cai says.

Cai is not only a well-known local singer of the Daur songs, but also officially recognized by the autonomous region as an inheritor of the folk-song heritage.

"Although our ethnic group has a very limited population, we live in such a multiethnic area and get along very well with all the other ethnic groups. I am proud of the happy life in my harmonious hometown," she says, adding that this united and beautiful new life continues to provide inspiration for her songwriting efforts.

In 2021, the songwriter participated in a festival in Southwest China's Chongqing, taking to the stage with her newly adapted series of Daur folk songs. During the event, she met performers from across China and experienced their unique creative styles.

"I learned a Tibetan folk song during the festival. It was composed of several short and delicate passages, which meant the whole song could be easily appreciated and spread. It is a new form that I can learn from," Cai says.

In recent years, the city of Tacheng has launched various inheritance and training courses for Daur ethnic folk songs, with Cai performing the role of teacher.

"I believe that inheritance still depends on the younger generation. Many college students learn from me during their summer and winter breaks, and I'm also learning about their popular music and their favorite forms of communication," Cai explains.

"Meanwhile, I'm so glad that the old Daur folk songs now have new inheritors."


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