China is noisy and China is fun. In the evening people dance together, and at any time of day you will sometimes see someone sweetly singing a high-pitched song into their phone. A street cleaner will sit perched on her heels on the pavement, taking a break from swiping the streets. She will smile at her phone, listening to a song. It all adds to the relaxed and exotic atmosphere of this city. I really like the minority music and the stories they tell. Yang Liping is a choreographer who has made a fantastic theatrical dance show based on the songs and dances of the different minority people in Yunnan. (Click on the photo below for a video of the show). The photo is from my favourite part of the show. A huge group of girls performs the Flowery Waist song, which starts as a very innocent and dreamy flirtation but ends with a firecracker of a girl dragging the boy she likes back to her home, after he has become exhausted by the drinking and the dancing. Yunnan girls are no shy wallflowers!
The other day I was out for lunch with a Chinese colleague, and we walked by someone who was singing into her phone. My colleague explains to me what the singing means.
Mountain songs (山歌 shan ge) are songs that lovers sing to each other, calling out to each other over the mountain that separates them. It’s a call and answer song, an ancient way to flirt. My colleague tells me that now there is a wechat group called Mountain Song. A girl will sing a part of a Mountain Song and send it to the group, and a boy will answer her.
Here are two of the mountain songs: 山歌一 and 山歌二 (by the Wuyinshan village troupe).
I find this really touching and it really made my day yesterday. Sometimes it can feel as if culture and traditions are disappearing fast in the onslaught of social media and consumerism. Then you find an instance where the culture has adapted and is alive and well in a new form, with new technology.
You all know how much I like China, but yesterday I fell in love with the country all over again. I’m also falling in love with another being: Ding Ding is a small black and white cat who arrived at my home two weeks ago. When I come home she starts singing to me and I sing back, performing our own mountain songs by meowing back and forth. Happiness!