Chinese traditional music finds new life online
Published: Aug 26, 2022 12:32 AM
The concert Photo: Courtesy of China National Traditional Orchestra

The concert Photo: Courtesy of China National Traditional Orchestra

With a history of thousands of years, Chinese traditional classic music is finding a new way to reach audiences – via live streaming platforms.

China National Traditional Orchestra and live streaming platform Douyin have launched a plan to provide an online stage for folk musicians, starting from Wednesday.

Over a hundred folk music artists will be invited to the live streaming platform to bring folk concerts to millions of viewers online.

The plan will also help 1,000 folk musicians to earn a living through live streaming in the future.

“Through such a stage, we hope more people will have the chance to enjoy the beauty of the traditional instruments, and also the live streaming reward can be a benefit for those inheritors who contribute very much to China’s intangible culture,” Zhang Fuping, vice president of Douyin, said at Wednesday’s launch ceremony.

Chinese traditional music reached its peak during the Sui and Tang dynasties when both wind and string instruments came into being. It was a new era for China’s music, and many poets also described the beauty of folk music.

As more art forms adapt to new trends, the country’s folk musicians have also moved their performances online to reach more listeners.

For example, this year’s Lantern Festival saw a live broadcast of a concert by the China National Traditional Orchestra, gaining more than 24 million hits on the Internet. 

During the almost three-year pandemic, the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra also launched a string of online performances bringing dozens of live online concerts to Shanghai citizens during this tough period.

“Performing online is a natural way of spreading art. And there are more and more folk artists using live streaming platforms. In the last month, various activities and competitions offered by China National Traditional Orchestra on online platforms have gained over 11 million views,” recalled Zhao Cong, head of the orchestra, at the launch ceremony.

As data from Douyin shows, the total views for live broadcasts of folk music have reached 6.1 billion. In the past year, live streams with folk music have exceeded 1.78 million, with 4,200 folk music performances a day.

Due to the double impact of the epidemic and social development, folk musicians have had less opportunities to perform offline in the past few years.

Caojiaban, a performing group established by the founder surnamed Cao, from Xuzhou, East China’s Jiangsu Province, has a long history of playing the Suona, a Chinese double-reed woodwind instrument. 

Ever since the group moved online from March, their live streaming account has attracted 620,000 subscribers. 

The group has been performing at weddings and funerals in China’s rural areas for decades, but Suona performances have become less common in the modern world. However, performing online “has become a new source of income for us,” said a member of the group.

Industry insiders said that combining online live broadcasting with traditional music forms allows artists to use new media channels to spread art and culture.

The move online began in 2017, when some inheritors of traditional Chinese opera held a live broadcast event through another live streaming platform, Momo. They introduced in detail the characteristics of different operas as well as the costumes, attracting 627,000 viewers in just one hour.

Another platform, Douyu, held a series of activities in 2017 saluting the inheritors of Chinese intangible culture. It held a Duanwu Festival and broadcast Cantonese Opera performances, gaining a stunning 10 million views from 30 live streaming activities.