A Shaman’s Tale: Oumuyounuo vs. Official TV Culture

What strikes me as most intriguing in the tableau is its configuration of the New China as a Grand Banquet in honor of the New Republic.

The libation metaphor binding the Rimland Peoples into the Feast that confirms the birth of a New China is clearly an accepted depiction from the very start, and remains so at least until the Grand Narrative East is Red (1964), which ends (musically) with the Dance of the (non-Han) Nations coming to Beijing to honor the Party then Chairman Mao, again as visitor to the Feast (though here the Host is the Lord of the New Jerusalem, and the Peoples are the congregants). The pattern remains: Banquet Etiquette (and the singing that goes with it) is a specialty (in its sincerity) of the Outer country Peoples. The penultimate song and dance set begins with a Mongolian toast, “from across the Grasslands come all the (non-Han) Peoples to Tiananmen, to drink the Health/Good Fortune of the Party and Chnairman Mao”.

The metaphor of libation crumbles soon thereafter however, under the monotonous Jacobinism of the Gang of Four (=Mao), and never quite recovers, until, that is, the (grudging 2006 decision (by CCTV) to include the “Primal” (mainly song) in the litany of singing contests (esp. qingnian gesai).

Our story shows the revived cultural pathway this shift opens for the “Each Peoples” (non-Han). Its heroine is a self-trained Suni Yi shaman, Oumuyounuo, (28) , whose performance on the “China Idol” show (6+1 Prodigies) sequence of 2011 placed her in the spring 2012 Finals. To the anger of the head panalist, and consequent attempt to sabotage her powerful dancing and song-calls. That she wins over even this curmudgeon, overriding Han Chinese arrogance, is a a remarkable outcome. How it happened, how our Suni Yi shakmaness Oumuyounuo got there, how her vocal power developed, is a story worth examining as a mirror of how China has now entered a phase of post-growth cultural angst.

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