Friday, February 27, 2009

Kunming - Part 4 - 翠湖 Green Lake

Today, there aren't many places you can enjoy art in the raw. When I went to Kunming's Green Lake (翠湖), I found it thriving with music and dance. As you enter you are met by billboards and line of junk shops. Don't dismiss this place on first impressions; just across the bridge and a short walk to the right you can find public traditional dance classes, music of every Chinese ethnicity performed on local instruents, local tasty snack foods and crowds of Kunming's diverse people.

After a brief lesson in Naxi dancing we passed a little comedic performance with live singing and erhu playing. Under a pavillion was a group of musicians accompanying a couple dancers and a vocalist. Understand that most of these performers are part of the older community in Kunming. The music and dance they perform is mainly passed down by rote; from family to family...and it's amazing! Throughout the park, there was at least twenty small ensembles. In these little bands, you can find all types of instruments from those made in Yunnan, to Western instruements to those found as far North as Xinjiang. And the best part about this park is that it's all free!

Towards the center of the park we found a vendor selling sheet music. This music was all written in numbers and Chinese rhythm notation. This seemed like the place to go if you were interested in studying Chinese folk music. The music was all photocopied in small plastic binders and only cost 2-10元 depending on how many pieces were in the collection. After moving on to the next performance I notivced a group of people set up behind the venue with music stands but no instruements. We asked what they were doing and they responded: “just following along!" Sounds like something I could do after I retire.

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