Wondrous Xinjiang: Folk song enthusiast keeps Daur heritage alive

2023-September-11 13:36 By: Xinhua

URUMQI, Sept. 11 (Xinhua) -- Cai Yuping, 60, still cherishes a fond childhood memory of listening to a traditional folk song of the Daur ethnic group titled "Home of colorful clouds," which portrays a purple mountain valley embraced by a long and blue river and gold-like fields dotted with silver-like pastures.

Born in the only Daur ethnic township in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Cai first heard the song from her parents who would play the harmonica and dance to the music after a long day of farming.

As a child, Cai showed great talent in singing and dancing, and dreamed for many years of becoming a performer. However, her parents rejected the idea of her following such a career, and so it was only in her forties that she was able to fulfill her passion for the performing arts.

Having already married and raised her children, Cai joined a local troupe that specialized in the folk arts of her ethnic group, finally becoming an amateur performer.

"Even after so many years, I have never forgotten my love of singing and dancing," she said, adding that she is now dedicated to protecting and passing on the folk music of the Daur people. She collects and archives old songs, as well as adapting existing songs and writing new ones.

The Daur ethnic group has a long history, mainly residing in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the north and Heilongjiang Province in the northeast. Some others, including Cai's family, live in the city of Tacheng, Xinjiang.

In 2008, the Daur folk song was listed as a national intangible cultural heritage of China, while those folk songs in Tacheng became a regional intangible cultural heritage in Xinjiang in 2018.

"When it comes to how to promote the folk songs, my idea and practice is to create some new accompaniments to the folk songs -- adding some trendy rhythms that young people like, which will attract more to appreciate the old songs, while writing beautiful and moving lyrics," Cai said.

Cai is not only a well-known local singer of the Daur songs, but also officially recognized by the autonomous region as an inheritor of the folk-song heritage.

"Although our ethnic group has a very limited population, we live in such a multi-ethnic area and get along very well with all the other ethnic groups. I am proud of the happy life in my harmonious hometown," said the senior artist, adding that this united and beautiful new life continues to offer inspiration for her songwriting efforts.

In 2021, the songwriter participated in a folk song festival in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, taking to the stage with her newly adapted series of Daur folk songs. During the event, she met 42 performing teams from across China and experienced their unique creative styles.

"I learned a Tibetan folk song during the festival. It was composed of several short and delicate passages, which meant the whole song could be easily appreciated and spread. It is a new form that I can learn from," Cai said.

In recent years, the city of Tacheng has launched various inheritance and training courses for the Daur ethnic folk songs, with Cai performing the role of teacher.

"I believe that inheritance still depends on the younger generations. Many college students learn from me during their summer and winter breaks, and I'm also learning about their popular music and their favorite forms of communication," Cai explained.

"Meanwhile, I'm so glad that the old Daur folk songs now have new inheritors," said Cai.

Editor: ZAD
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