Global EditionASIA 中文双语Français
Home / Culture / Music and Theater

A grand endeavor

Former music journalist helps popularize ethnic Dong's choral heritage, Cheng Yuezhu reports.

By CHENG YUEZHU | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-20 10:22
Share - WeChat
Album cover of Everyone Listen Close by the Yandong Grand Singers.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Five years ago in a quaint village in Guizhou province's Yandong township, a troupe comprising musicians of the Dong ethnic group stood on a covered bridge, singing out their iconic Grand Songs dedicated to the greatness of nature.

Mostly a cappella melodies interwoven with uninhibited improvisations, they sang of their hometown, the picturesque landscapes and the longing for love, echoed by the subtle sounds of rainfall, flowing water and wildlife.

Standing by their side and holding a portable recorder was ethnomusicologist and music curator Mu Qian, who wanted to preserve their singing in its purest form and take it to places far away.

He successfully realized his vision — not only were the recordings published on an album titled Everyone Listen Close, the Yandong Grand Singers group was also invited on a tour in the United States, where the album was well received and was exchanged as a token of friendship.

Much more than just music, the Grand Song represents an age-old tradition practiced by almost everyone of the Dong ethnic group. A children's choir receives training from experienced singers. When they grow up they join the village's various choirs, often divided by gender and age.

At festive and social occasions, the choirs can be seen donning elaborate ethnic attire and performing at the drum tower in their respective villages, often the center of the community and where public events are held. The singers imitate natural sounds and extol the beauty of nature, or sing antiphonally with another choir, expressing a yearning for love.

Without the need of a conductor, each choir comprises at least two vocal sections. Most of the singers take part in the bass section of the singing, and less than three singers in the treble section make improvisations based on the main melody.

Mu's bond with the art form began in 2007, when he worked as a music journalist and went on a field trip to Guizhou's Liping county, a core settlement for the Dong people and where he learned Liping's Yandong township was home to many singers.

1 2 3 4 Next   >>|
Most Popular
Copyright 1995 - . All rights reserved. The content (including but not limited to text, photo, multimedia information, etc) published in this site belongs to China Daily Information Co (CDIC). Without written authorization from CDIC, such content shall not be republished or used in any form. Note: Browsers with 1024*768 or higher resolution are suggested for this site.
License for publishing multimedia online 0108263

Registration Number: 130349