Mu­sic in­jects vi­tal­ity into re­mote vil­lage

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA -

It is rare to see for­eign­ers play­ing Chi­nese folk mu­sic in a re­mote vil­lage in the coun­try, but a five-mem­ber Ukrainian band has be­come pop­u­lar in a vil­lage in He­bei prov­ince. Zhouwo vil­lage is lo­cated in Wuqiang, a statelevel im­pov­er­ished county.

The five Ukrainian mu­si­cians ar­rived in Novem­ber, at the in­vi­ta­tion of an art school, to teach lo­cal res­i­dents to play mu­si­cal in­stru­ments. They work part-time play­ing in a vil­lage cof­fee shop.

Bog­dan Kozub, 25, plays sax­o­phone and is the youngest mem­ber of the band. He grew up in Odessa, one of the largest cities in Ukraine, where he be­gan learn­ing to play the sax­o­phone at age 10. This is the first time he has vis­ited a ru­ral area of China and the vil­lage and its res­i­dents sur­prised him.

“Al­most every­one in the vil­lage plays Western in­stru­ments, which I have not seen in my coun­try,” Kozub said. “It is mar­velous that Western mu­si­cal cul­ture can in­te­grate into Chi­nese cul­ture so well.”

Guo Yuguan was among the cof­fee shop au­di­ence, the ma­jor­ity of whom are lo­cal res­i­dents. They of­ten talk with the Ukrainian vis­i­tors about how to play in­stru­ments af­ter the band has com­pleted its per­for­mance.

Although they don’t speak each other’s lan­guage, they use trans­la­tion apps to fa­cil­i­tate com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

The band some­times plays Chi­nese mu­sic, such as the tra­di­tional folk song Jas­mine or the pop song A Woman’s Heart, while vil­lagers some­times play the well­known Rus­sian folk song Katyusha.

Here in the vil­lage, mu­sic is the com­mon lan­guage.

“The vil­lagers are tal­ented, but they lack for­mal ed­u­ca­tion. I am re­ally touched that all of them love mu­sic from their hearts. I would like to teach them,” Kozub said.

In con­trast to many im­pov­er­ished vil­lages, Zhouwo has a memo­rial hall for English mu­si­cian John Len­non, guitar fac­to­ries, cof­fee shops and pubs. The build­ings have also been re­fur­bished with both Chi­nese and Western char­ac­ter­is­tics.

“This is the mu­si­cal utopia that I have been search­ing for. It is a great source of in­spi­ra­tion for my cre­ativ­ity,” Kozub said.

The fate of the vil­lage, as well as the county, has changed as an in­creas­ing num­ber of mu­si­cal in­stru­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers have opened fac­to­ries there over the past 20 years.

Jinyin Group is one of the most suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies. It pro­duces more than 800,000 in­stru­ments ev­ery year, in­clud­ing gui­tars, vi­olins, clar­inets, and sax­o­phones. More than 85 per­cent of its stock is ex­ported to more than 30 coun­tries and re­gions around the world.

The group has de­vel­oped into one of the largest or­ches­tral in­stru­ment man­u­fac­tur­ers in China. Wuqiang county is now a ma­jor pro­duc­tion base for or­ches­tral in­stru­ments, with more than 50 man­u­fac­tur­ing plants, em­ploy­ing 20,000 work­ers.

Most staff are vil­lagers from the county or nearby ar­eas. They learn to play in­stru­ments in their spare time.

Guo was a farmer be­fore she se­cured a job at Jinyin nearly 20 years ago. Since re­tir­ing, she spends a lot of time prac­tic­ing the sax­o­phone.

“In the past, we used to chat and play mahjong dur­ing slow farm­ing sea­sons. Now we talk about mu­sic and in­stru­ments ev­ery day. I am able to learn a new song in just 10 days,” she said.

“The fac­to­ries not only bring jobs for farm­ers, but also en­hance their spir­i­tual lives. Since mu­sic en­tered their lives, folk cus­toms in the county have be­come more har­mo­nious,” said Zhou Guangt­ing, Party sec­re­tary of the vil­lage.

The re­port de­liv­ered at the 19th Na­tional Congress of the Com­mu­nist Party of China stressed the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ru­ral re­vi­tal­iza­tion strat­egy and poverty al­le­vi­a­tion across the coun­try. Wuqiang county has seized the op­por­tu­nity and leads the way.

As well as its pros­per­ous mu­si­cal in­stru­ment man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dus­try, the vil­lage has been mak­ing ef­forts to de­velop it­self into a tourist at­trac­tion. Vis­i­tors, as well as en­trepreneurs, from around China and the world have been at­tracted.

Han Qiang, 47, who pre­vi­ously was a mi­grant worker, has now re­turned to his home­town. He gave up his orig­i­nal ca­reer in house ren­o­va­tion to run a mu­sic stu­dio in the vil­lage. Many chil­dren come to his stu­dio to learn to play mu­si­cal in­stru­ments.

“Mu­sic has in­jected vi­tal­ity into the vil­lage. My whole life has been com­pletely changed,” Han said.

PHO­TOS BY MU YU / XIN­HUA

From top: A band per­forms in a street in Zhouwo vil­lage in Wuqiang county, He­bei prov­ince, dur­ing a mu­sic fes­ti­val. A for­eign mu­si­cian plays clar­inet at a cafe in the vil­lage.

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