Singers frrom a remote Chinese village will perform their unique music at MTSU

Jan 31, 2019

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  A group of traditional Chinese singers will make their American debut this weekend at Middle Tennessee State.

Villagers perform the Grand Song of the Chinese Dong during a 2016 festival at Xiaohuang village in Congjiang County in southwest China’s Guizhou province. The MTSU Women’s Chorale will join a group from Guizhou to perform the song Feb. 2 as part of the Murfreesboro Festival of Chinese Arts. (Photo submitted)
Credit MTSU

The Saturday performance by a choir of female singers of the Chinese Dong ethnic minority is part of a larger offering from the Center for Chinese Art and Culture. The chorus members all hail from a small, remote village located in the mountains of Southern China.

The traditional music of the Dong as performed by the chorus is listed as an "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO.

Center for Chinese Art and Culture Director Dr. Mei Han says she learned about the Dong people’s Grand Song in the mid-90s working as a young musicologist.

“I traveled by myself to these mountains. Back then there was no road. Very difficult to find, but because of that the songs, which is a Grand Song, was preserved very well.”

Mei Han notes that the Dong people have no written language. She says their history and culture are preserved and passed on to the next generation using their unique vocal stylings.

Mei Han says the Dong’s Grand Song reminds her of the way music is used to preserve the shared history and culture of isolated Appalachian communities in East Tennessee.

“So that’s part of the reason I brought three scholars from China with this group and they’re going to give talks at this symposium specifically about oral tradition.”

The first of the symposium’s lectures and performances will take place Feb. 2 at the MTSU College of Education. All events are free. You can find the details here.