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A grand endeavor

Updated: 2024-04-20 10:22 ( China Daily )
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Mu (left) promotes Chinese folk music at a radio station in the United States.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The total of 18 tracks were selected as representative pieces from the vast Grand Song repertoire, which encompass different themes and styles, including those featuring catchy melodies or artful techniques, as well as both a cappella pieces and songs accompanied by ethnic instruments — govkgis and biichav (two kinds of lute).

"The selected Grand Songs on the album showcase the rich musicality of this tradition. Each piece has a distinct melody and structure, yet the pieces all share some similarities," Han Mei, founding director of the Center for Chinese Music and Culture at the Middle Tennessee State University in the US, writes in a review of the album.

"With its well-written liner notes, this recording presents a beneficial introduction to Dong singing and will be a valuable resource for academic courses, libraries, and music collections."

In September 2019, Mu and the Yandong Grand Singers took the album on a tour to five US cities, hosting 10 concerts and workshops that introduced the nature and culture of the Dong ethnic group and taught the attendees the music and its singing methods.

As Mu recalls, at the tour's last stop, the University of Kentucky, he jokingly urged the audience to buy up all of the troupe's CDs and merchandise, and to his amazement the audience actually did.

The album continued to be popular worldwide — it was selected as the Best of Asia and Pacific album of the 2019-2020 season by the Transglobal World Music Chart, was broadcast on dozens of global radio stations and launched on more than 50 online music service providers.

Mu's effort in promoting the Grand Song as well as other Chinese folk and ethnic music genres continues. He has been introducing Chinese music on international radio shows and publishing articles in music magazines, as well as on his own official WeChat account. Last year, he curated an exhibition about the Grand Song, Splendid Kam Songs, commissioned by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department of Hong Kong.

"I have a dream, that Dong Grand Songs will be included in music textbooks found in global middle and primary schools, so that people from all around the world will learn to sing them," Mu says.

"Ethnic music is the root of Chinese culture and an emblem of the Chinese identity on the global stage. Facilitating international cultural exchange through music requires collective efforts from various sectors of society, including the government, scholars, musicians and media. It is also essential to enhance the education of traditional music, so that everyone takes pride in our ethnic music heritage."

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