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In a Naxi Village
By Gregg - 18 Apr, 2000

Page 3 of 4

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The fortified plateau at the apex of Baoshan's outcropping is referred to these days as "the stadium". It is here that public events are held. Some days later we were invited to just such a celebration. It was the third anniversary of a death thus marking the end of the mourning period for the deceased man's family.

Following food, drink and mahjong in the family's courtyard, much of the village gathered in the stadium. It was dark save for a small fire and a single kerosene lantern. A musician standing near the fire began blowing a melody on an instrument constructed of bamboo and gourd. He swayed slightly to the music and shuffle stepped forward to the rhythm. A line of dancers slowly grew as villagers fell into step in the traditional dance. The line grew to become a circle; the circle's diameter increased to accomodate yet more dancers.

The village's three musicians took turns playing. When one tired, another would step in and thus the fun continued well into the night. Two of the musicians played the gourd instrument—the 'hulu'; the third played a bamboo flute. We had met one of the hulu players—a former village chief—a few days prior. He'd demonstrated his art for us with great pride.

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The day following the celebration we joined the hulu player at his mother's house. The house was under construction. Earlier we'd seen the son hoisting new beams into place. Most everyone in Baoshan seems to have building skills; out of necessity. The son had been working alone when we saw him but at other times he'd have help from family and friends.

We arrived at the construction site after lunchtime to find the hulu player napping in the one room that remained of his mother's old house. He awoke and his mother soon joined us. An accomplished singer in the warbly traditional style, we were there to record her singing. As we got set up, on came the tea. In contrast with Mr. He's barren room, this one was crowded with simple furniture, a woodburning stove, clothing and provisions. Slabs of cured pork hung from the rafters. Rather than a picture of Chairman Mao on the wall, here there were two small posters of Michael Jordan, in-flight towards the basket. I tried to imagine these pictures through the eyes of the singer. I couldn't.

The singer proudly told us how they'd come from Beijing to record her singing. But she won't sing in public in the village. She's embarassed. The kids make fun of her—they think her singing is old-fashioned. We asked if the musical traditions are being passed on to the younger generation. The hulu player has a 17 year old son. But neither he nor his peers are interested in learning the traditional music. The hulu player's eyes watered over as his mother told us the tradition would end with him.




In a Naxi Village
  A Tepid Return

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