Kam Grand Choir Festival celebrated in mountainous Guizhou

Source:Xinhua Published: 2018/12/5 19:03:40

As warm breezes blow on colorful embroidered attire and silver ornaments, singing voices echo above the drum towers.

The 15th Kam Grand Choir Festival concluded on Friday in the county of Congjiang in the Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, Southwest China's Guizhou Province. The three-day event featured grand choirs and singing competitions along the riverside, along with many traditional festive activities in different Dong villages.

Kam Grand Choir is a type of polyphonic folk singing performed without musical instruments or a conductor. Also known as the Grand Song of the Dong, one of China's 55 ethnic minorities, the choir was included in the World Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2009.

In Dingdong Village, more than 1,000 villagers gathered in the public playground on Friday afternoon for a grand performance that saw them walk and dance in circles. The spontaneous repertoire lasted for hours.

"Today, on this special occasion, the songs are mostly about how we miss the good old days we spent together as childhood friends, and about our desire to find a love for life," said Liang Xiangtao, 25, one of the local villagers who took part in the performance.

Teenagers in Dong villages usually learn to sing traditional songs before their coming-of-age ceremony at the age of 15, and then sing in groups with members of the same age, Liang said.

According to Liang, since the language of the Dong ethnic group lacks a written form, many traditions and customs in life are passed on via these folk songs.

"My friends and I all left work for this event because we deeply cherish and identify with our cultural heritage," said Liang, who currently works in a family inn several kilometers away from her village.

"I've been thinking about coming back home and recording traditional Dong songs," Liang said.

According to Liang, although residents are keen on transmitting their tradition, people younger than her know less about Dong songs as a growing number of them have left for school or work.

"They are more than just songs for us, they are ancient nuggets of wisdom and a cultural heritage we would hate to lose," she said.

Richard Watts, a photographer from the UK, was among the visitors at the event.

Since first visiting Guizhou in 1994, Watts' interest in Guizhou has grown tremendously. He now spends four to five months traveling and taking pictures of minority groups in the province each year.

"It's my great passion," he said.

For Watts, the ethnic groups' enduring preservation of and passion for ethnic traditions are what keep bringing him back to Guizhou.

"The essence of them remains unchanged. Modernity has come to their lives, so they've changed a little bit, but you can still find many traditional elements," Watts said.


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