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Miao and Dong songs in limelight at unique choral festival

By Xing Wen | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-15 08:00

Miao and Dong songs in limelight at unique choral festival

Choirs from more than 20 countries and regions take part in the international choral festival in Kaili, Guizhou province. Singers from the Miao ethnic group (left) and Kentucky Harmony from the United States perform at the festival. [Photo by Xing Wen/China Daily]

Two young women of the Miao ethnic group, clad in traditional dresses, sing on a boat that passes under an arched bridge over the Qingshui River in Southwest China's Guizhou province, raising the curtain for an international festival in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture.

The 2017 China (Qiandongnan) International Folk Song Choral Festival that ended on Saturday was held in Kaili, the prefecture's capital.

The festival's "world voices conference" drew 69 choirs from more than 20 countries and regions, including the United States, Mexico, Hungary and Russia.

It was perhaps the first time that traditional Miao and Dong songs were heard at an international event, according to Emily Kuo Vong, president of the International Federation for Choral Music, one of the organizers of the festival.

"It is a great chance for cultural exchanges as the festival also brings the most beautiful voices of the world to Qiandongnan," she says.

At the opening ceremony on Aug 10, local choirs, such as the Congjiang County Dong Choir and the Kaili Choir, performed songs with features of the two ethnic groups in Qiandongnan.

"Now I have a better idea about traditional Chinese songs," says Paulo Lourenco, the conductor of the ECCE Ensemble from Portugal.

Regarding differences in folk songs of Portugal and China, he explains: "These Chinese folk songs are based on the pentatonic scale, which is typical in Asian countries, while we use more harmonic and diatonic scales. And the instruments we use are also different from each other. Although folk songs vary among regions, music is a universal language."

Susan Nation, the double-bass player of the Chuck Nation Band from the US says she finds similarities between the ethnic culture of Qiandongnan and her homeland.

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