Joy to the World: a Granny's Passion for Singing

December 30, 2019
Editor: Wei Xuanyi

Joy to the World: a Granny's Passion for Singing

Hu Guanmei (L) poses for a photo with her daughter-in-law Yang Huanzhen. [Xinhua]


Hu Guanmei, 64, has never quarreled with her family. According to her, the secret is to sing Dong songs.

"We Dong people love singing Dong songs. It's our tradition and favorite entertainment," she said, adding that all her family members would forget about their troubles when they sing Dong songs together.

Dong songs, the folk songs of the Dong ethnic group, are performed with a group of people to make a polyphonic singing called Kam Grand Choir without musical instruments or a conductor. It was inscribed on the World Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2009.

Hu was born in a village in Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, which is regarded as the birthplace of the Kam Grand Choir, in Southwest China's Guizhou Province. She started to learn Dong songs from her parents at the age of 3.

"We Dong people always say 'Rice nourishes our body and Dong songs nourish our souls'," Hu said. She explained that the songs are about the legends of the Dong people's heroic ancestors and the wonders of the Earth's creatures. Thus, singing Dong songs gives the Dong people a positive attitude towards life.

When Hu got married in 1973 and moved to her husband's village, she had already mastered around 400 Dong songs. When she became a mother of three children, she also started to teach them to sing Dong songs with her husband just as her parents did.

"My parents told me when you are happy, sing; when you are sad, sing too. Singing Dong songs keeps worries away, and I want my children to be happy," she said.

Under Hu's guidance, her two daughters became excellent singers and have won many music competitions and have performed in France and Spain.

"We have learned not only singing skills but also life lessons from our mother," said Hu's daughter Yang Xiuzhu, emphasizing that Hu always tells them the philosophy of the Dong people that life is just like singing Dong songs in a Kam Grand Choir where everybody cooperates.

In addition to teaching her children, Hu has also been teaching kids in her village of 716 residents.

Hu's 39-year-old daughter-in-law, Yang Huanzhen was one of her students.

"She always smiles and is kind to everyone. She is patient and never gets upset in front of the kids," Yang said, adding that Hu's kindness and optimism impressed her and she has got along with Hu ever since.

"I have never seen a member of my family quarrel with others since I got married to her son," she added.

The more Hu brings joy to people, the harder she works.

In recent years, she has gotten much busier. As the local government decided to introduce Dong songs to local schools to pass on the traditional culture, Hu was invited to teach at primary and secondary schools.

"I teach kids to sing Dong songs at the schools twice a week, which makes me really happy," Hu said.

"We spend most of our spare time with master Hu both at school and at her home, and we love her and treat her as our grandma because she loves us and treats us as her grandchildren," said 10-year-old Yang Caiyun.

"Kids are the future and we need them to pass on our Dong culture and bring more joy to more people," Hu said.


(Source: Xinhua)

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