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Dimen Dong Folk Chorus

The Dong Folk Chorus of the Dimen Dong Cultural Eco-museum comprises local children and youths from ages 6 to 16. They are all members of the museum’s decade-long “100 Dong Songs Program.”

Since 2003, the Dimen Dong Cultural Eco-museum’s “100 Dong Songs Program” has organized choirs from pre-school to the elderly, training more than 800 people in Dong cultural heritage. The Program received the “International Spotlight Award” of the U. S. President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards in November 2012 at a ceremony held at the White House officiated by First Lady Michelle Obama.

The Dong people, one of China’s 55 acknowledged minorities, number nearly 2.63 million in southwest China, with more than a million living in Guizhou province alone. Dong presence in China traces back as far as the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.), and the remoteness of their villages has accounted for the remarkable preservation of their music and culture, which has remained removed from the Chinese mainstream. Traditionally, the Dong had no written language—only in the 1950s did the Chinese government apply pinyin Romanization—and as a result, Dong traditions and history have long been passed down from generation to generation orally, with everything from clan history to societal rites and social duties recorded in song.

Dimen village is located in Maogong Township in Liping County, Guizhou Province. The village is divided into five sub-villages, with more than 500 households and a population of more than 2,300 people. In the Dong language, the word Dimen means “gushing springs”—a symbol of and blessing to the village’s flourishing population. According to the local lore, Dong people have lived here since the Tang Dynasty, giving the village more than a thousand years of history. In May 2008, Amy Tan’s article “Village on the Edge of Time” for National Geographic magazine recounted the story of Dimen village in 5,000 words and 13 photos.

Dong Vocal Polyphony

Dong folk singing was recognized by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009. The Guizhou Liping Dong Folk Chorus performed for the first time internationally in the 1986 Autumn Art Festival in Paris, where reviewers described the music as “pristine as a clear spring, with melodies that touch upon ancient dreams.”

According to historical records, the Dong musical tradition dates back to China’s Spring and Autumn period (771-476 B.C.). The choral musical tradition widespread in southern China’s Dong communities today is a natural a cappella polyphony known in its earliest form (in the Dong language) as ga lao.

Dong folk ensembles with more than five people are led by a solo singer backed by a multi-part chorus, a tradition rare in any folk heritage. Dong music is at once inspired and imitative of nature, mimicking the sounds of insects, birds, mountains and streams. Its themes reference people and nature in harmony.

Dong Folk Music

Dong folk music can be divided into both solo and choral genres, covering a wide range of subject matter, from children’s songs to drinking songs. From choral da ge (or “big songs”) to solo pipa ballads, from festive drinking songs and ritual courtship to solemn historical narratives, this tradition harkens to a pre-literate society where every aspect of life was expressed in vocal narrative.

 

2012 "International Spotlight Award" of the U.S. Presidents's Committee on the Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards

27-30 June, 2013
Performance schedule in Houston, Texas and Washington D.C., USA

 

 
© 2014 Dimen Dong Eco-Museum, Dimen, Guizhou, China | Last Update 20-06-2014
email: dimen.link@gmail.com | phone: +86851-5828073 | Site Map

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