Villagers Create Rap Songs, Record Better Lives

ByLi Wenjie July 24, 2022
[Xinhua/Ou Dongqu]

 

Pingpo, an ethnic Miao village in Longli County, Qiannan Buyi and Miao Autonomous Prefecture, in Southwest China's Guizhou Province, is known for Miao farmers' paintings. However, painting is not the only hobby of the villagers. Zhang Li, Lan Kaibin, Wang Darong and Zhang Tianyan have formed a music group, Qian Yun Shuo Chang, and they have created a series of videos that feature their original rap songs. The songs reflect the local ethnic culture, the village's economic development and the "new lives" of the villagers in the new era. Piqued by the videos, many tourists have visited the village, and that has boosted the development of both the local tourism and ethnic-cultural industries.

Women share experiences in creating paintings. [Photo Supplied by Interviewee]

 

With so many exteriors of houses decorated with colorful Miao farmers' paintings, Pingpo is like an open-air rural gallery. About 65 percent of the villagers are ethnic Miao. Pingpo was named the "hometown of Miao farmers' paintings in Qiannan" in 1995.

More than 30 of the villagers create Miao farmers' paintings in their spare time. Some of their paintings are sold in big cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Their paintings not only help them earn extra income, but also make the village more beautiful.

In addition to painting, most of the villagers also like to sing ethnic Miao songs. In 2021, the music group, Qian Yun Shuo Chang (literally meaning Qian-style rap), was established.

Zhang Li, president of Pingpo women's federation and deputy director of Pingpo's village committee, is one of the group's four members. The other three members are Lan, deputy director of Pingpo's village committee, and villagers Wang and Zhang Tianyan.

They integrate rap with traditional folk songs to create original rap songs, and they record and upload videos (to social-media platforms) of them performing the songs in dialect.

"As ethnic people, we love singing and dancing. Our village was lifted out of poverty in 2017. As we are living better lives than before, we now have more time to enjoy ourselves, like singing during our spare time. So, we came up with the idea of forming a music group, to sing about our new lives in the new era. With support from the local Party (Communist Party of China) committee and the local government, we established the music group to demonstrate our Party's policies and our happy lives through original rap songs, with ethnic-Miao characteristics," Zhang Li says.

The video featuring their first rap song, Painting New Lives, was recorded and uploaded in September 2021. The song is about Pingpo women improving their lives by creating farmers' paintings in their spare time. "The sun has gone down, why not come and paint? ... We are all artists, who paint everything about our lives," read some of the song's lyrics. The video went viral.

They have created several videos, in which they sing about almost every aspect of the villagers' new lives, the changes in the village, and the villagers' gratitude toward the Party and the government.

The village has become well-known online, and its online profile has attracted many tourists.

Creating Meaningful, Interesting Videos

Rehearsing songs in a field of rape flowers [Xinhua/Ou Dongqu]

 

Each video deals with a specific topic. When You Will Come Again is about improving facilities and services to create a better environment for tourists.

In the video, several of the villagers introduce specialty products and Miao farmers' paintings to tourists. Then, a village cadre explains how the village has received complaints from some tourists about conditions in the hotel. At the end of the video, the villagers promise to improve facilities (including at the hotel) and infrastructure in the village to ensure tourists enjoy future visits to the village.

The video not only demonstrated the specialty products; it also showed the villagers' reflections on existing problems in the village, and their plans and efforts to make Pingpo a better tourist destination. The video was "liked" by tens of thousands of netizens on various social-media platforms.

"The village cadres really had good ideas about how to promote their hometown. They did a good job," some netizens have commented.

The performers in the videos are either villagers or village cadres. They are not professional actors or musicians; yet, they present natural, and sincere, performances that touch people's hearts.

Some of the videos promote the work of village committees and grassroots women's federations; other videos, national laws and/or policies. One of the group's videos, about anti-fraud, has become popular, and the National Anti-Fraud Center has forwarded the video on its official social-media accounts.

This year, the video, Helping More People, was selected as one of the national top-10 outstanding videos with the theme of women volunteers' care and services.

"As president of the women's federation in our village, I often organize women volunteers to promote the policies of the Party and the government, learn about villagers' demands and mediate neighborhood disputes. We produced the video, Helping More People, to demonstrate the work of the grassroots women's federation. We hope more people will understand that women have made important contributions to rural revitalization, civilization construction, epidemic prevention and control, and economic and social development," Zhang Li says.

Zhang Li (C), Lan Kaibin (R) and Wang Darong(L) rehearse a song. [Xinhua/Ou Dongqu]

 

Greater Confidence

Pingpo's online popularity has risen and the village has been receiving an increasing number of visitors thanks to the videos. The videos have helped boost both the local tourism and ethnic-cultural industries.

"The videos featuring our rap songs have helped boost the economy of the village. Many tourists have come to our village to buy specialty products, such as farmers' paintings, wax printings and embroideries. As our village has a growing reputation, the painters have received more orders than before. Last year, villagers earned more than 900,000 yuan (US $138,461) combined by selling farmers' paintings and other cultural and creative products, with each household having an average income of 30,000 yuan (US $4,615)," Zhang Li says.

"Painting has become an important source of families' incomes, and it has helped increase women's status within the family, has made families more harmonious, and stimulated villagers' enthusiasm to create farmers' paintings. As villagers live better lives, they are more willing to contribute to the all-round development of the village. When we carry out projects, such as repairing roads and constructing squares or an open-air museum, villagers volunteer to help, and they donate money and/or materials to the projects," Zhang Li adds.

Women create Miao farmers' paintings. [Photo Supplied by Interviewee]

 

Women create Miao farmers' paintings. [Photo Supplied by Interviewee]

 

Many young villagers, who had previously worked in big cities, have returned to start businesses in the village. Various training sessions have been organized so more villagers can learn how to create farmers' paintings.

Zhang Li has visited Beijing, and several other cities, to communicate with cadres and entrepreneurs. "I have brought their experiences in developing the economy back to our village ... Now, people have improved their incomes, and they feel happier and more confident than before. I feel the original goal of our music group has been achieved. I'm growing more confident as well," Zhang Li says.

She and the other villagers are full of confidence about the future. "With the care and help from governments, at all levels, and with the support of netizens, we believe Pingpo will enjoy better development in the future," Zhang Li says.

Zhang Li sells famers' paintings during a live-stream activity. [Photo Supplied by Interviewee]

 

(Women of China English Monthly June 2022 issue)

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