Chinese folk artists dazzle on National Mall

By Chen Weihua     (China Daily USA)

Updated: 2014-06-26

Singers from the Dimen Dong Folk Chorus from southwest China's Guizhou province perform on Wednesday morning at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington. [Chen Weihua/China Daily]

It looks very much like a Chinese cultural gala on the National Mall in Washington on Wednesday as the 48th Smithsonian Folklife Festival began.

A giant colorful flower plaque is probably the most eye-catching as people exit the nearby Smithsonian Washington Metro station. The plaque is a bamboo structure used for celebrations such as weddings, business openings and anniversaries, mostly in South China.

China and Kenya are the two nations featured in this year's festival.

In a huge tent nearby, the opening ceremony drew a packed audience, watching shows by Chinese and Kenyan folk artists.

Signers and instrument players from the Dimen Dong Folk Chorus of southwest China's Guizhou province arrived early for the opening ceremony. They have already spent three days in New York, including performing at the Asia Society.

Some members had performed in the folklife festival last year as a preview for this year's China- themed extravaganza.

Wu Xiuchun, a singer, was in the US the first time. She said she was excited to visit the United Nations in New York that "I only saw on TV before".

Wu and her fellow performers, all from the same village, demonstrated Dong ethnic group's polyphonic choral tradition. Their songs are said to be inspired by nature, mimicking the sounds of insects, birds, mountains and streams.

The seven-piece Ih Tsetsn band, originally from the prairie of Inner Mongolia, but now based in Beijing, performed the so-called khoomei throat-singing and long song, two genres that have been on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Corine Motley, who came all the way from California for the festival, was sitting in the front row at the opening ceremony. "It's overwhelming, it's beautiful, colorful and it's marvelous," she told China Daily.

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