Illustration: Ye Qianyu, Reunion of all the (minority) nations, 1953, watercolor: Mao and Zhou Enlai are the invited guests. Around them are 41 figures each dressed in different minority garb, all lifting libation cups in salute of the birth of … Continue reading →
Illustrations: New Age and Bocellic Angelism (1) Dadawa (Yangjinma album), 1997: (2) Charlotte Church, Panis Angelicus (3) Enya, “Angeles”, ca. 1990 NEW AGE music surfaced in China almost independently (arguably in 1992), was “global” even before it was domestically popular … Continue reading →
PRELUDE 1 Stripping the Folk from the People: a Hollowed Out Stage Culture
Gala, Oct 1, 2009. Part 1
The waist-drum or yaogu 腰鼓 dance was a high point in the celebration of the Chinese New Year in the north of Shaanxi province, where Chinese Communists located their WWII wartime government. It was performed only by unmarried male volunteer trainees, whose youth and gender evoked the sun’s post-solstice passage into Male 阳 (yang) re-ascendance. The dance rite was discovered by folk-performance investigators from the Lu Xun Folk Arts Academy and was taken up as a tool for attracting male bachelor recruits into the Red Army. We are here shown a recruitment ceremony (parading youths on horses) evoking how “poor-peasant” adolescents were ushered off as soldiers, rarely returning. Nonethess the send off was a kind of parade, performed to a firm, repetitive beat in 2/4 time and pounded out by a bulging cylindrical wood and skin drum with (in some) a golden dragon embossed on the red. This category of drum was bookended by the name luogu 锣鼓 and its players 锣鼓队 a luoguo parade. Perhaps just as important as the insistent, military beat is that the players are moving in file.
Illustrations (clockwise from upper left) 1. Dai Ailian sketched as “Yao” dancer (husband Ye Qianyu), ca. 1940 2. In London as Laban method student later 1930s 3. “The Old Carry the Young”, modern dance from Guangxi Vernacular, 1941 4. Program … Continue reading →
UNCLE KURBAN RIDES HIS PONY….. ALL THE WAY TO VISIT CHAIRMAN MAO!
then on into oblivion and racialist satire….
* * * *
Minstrel show humor remains front and center in this next sequence too.
Except with a difference. This performance is from later: and is very much institutionalized output, manufactured at and distributed from “the center”. (Meaning the PLA Propaganda bureaucracy). No pretence here of amateur performance, of accidental bumbling, of Major Message somehow garbled at the basement rehearsal level. Those now scrubbed away devices might presumably have been felt appropriate to reverse what was sensed as a gathering tide of popular disillusion with the forced-march pace of collectivization and its grandiose claims. Here, with the ups and downs of the 60s long behind, the humor switches from coy irreverence to boisterous undermining of Zhou Enlai inspired Minorities’ self-inflation as symbolic or ritual players in the world of song and dance – something we saw at its peak in the East is Red (1964) “omnidance” suite. (See post of January 1 2012 https://asianimperialisms.com/2012/01/01/dance-of-the-nations-in-dong-fang-hong-1964/). With the only half-true Uyghur countenance in the show that of Kerim 克里木 ( 1941), a PLA song+dance recruit from age 11, and star fusion performer since the late 1950s, it is strictly Chinese show: the rest, prophetically, are Han Chinese – making the show a true (cross-dressed) ‘ol style Minstrel performance.
"Kerim Effendi", PLA recruited Sinophone Uyghur
By now (35 years after East is Red, and 20 years into Deng’s glasnost), no regime-legitimizing political game is on stage, only an Army apercu that the (after all) overwhelmingly Sinophonic audience of that all-powerful new medium, the TV spectacular, had grown impatient with Minority-Coddling (a parallel to what happened in the US in backlash to the civil rights movement…). The form of “all-God’s chillun'” was still out there but, as the revised label suggests, there was more and more a sense of “enough”, a mood of snicker.
Thus the 1999 (50th anniversary) version of the (1958) Uncle Kurban declines with no embarrassment into cabaret, of the officially sanctioned variety (occasion+wanhui or “nightshow”). The cabaret element in this 1999 take is signaled by the use of the interruptive female omnisong query midway in the last solo line, eye-lashes fluttering, about “what could this be?” A device that was a signature element in Li Jinhui’s 明星歌舞团 feature number 桃花江(Peachblossom River) of ca. 1928-9 vintage – the song that provoked the onset of the label “Yellow Music” and Nie Er’s self-publicized secession from Li’s troupe. (for the now innocuous sounding song, see http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMjMxMDUwODQ=.html)
3 Projections in Music and Dance From the start of the reign of Deng Xiaoping, openness to non-Chinese (=non-Maoist, non-Soviet) “culture”: (of course meaning mainly technology and trade) becomes a themesong of public rhetoric. What we here need to address … Continue reading →
Images: 1) Opening of nverguo (matrimonial land) – anchor image 2) Jaga (Hani-Yi) striking the Taiyanggu to call forth light (2) 3) Li Huaixiu, Yi singer of Haicaiqiang in show (winner of 2006 first “yuanshitai” song contest 4) Mingyue Gewutuan, … Continue reading →
Overture: Drums that Create the Cosmos (Hani Myth) Can’t believe this has been purged as indecent or “inappropriate”. Is Joseph Campbell next? Derek Jarman less disturbing? Anyway, here’s the overture – the words follow, though in dialect and as poesy … Continue reading →