Traveling in China: The Drums, The Music

This was a day of music. We began by traveling to the  drum tower and climbing to the top where we saw some of the huge drums used by Chinese drummers, long ago going to battle and today for festivities, like we saw during the Olympics. Then we went to a small village, what was really a part of a suburb of Xian, to hear a concert of ancient instruments of the Her family. These are famers who can no longer farm, their farmlands have been taken and they have been moved to the city. The farmers in this area are reconstructing the buildings to eventually rent them out, This is how they will make  money. The musicians, both the men and women, are street sweepers, They had to request a day off to present their concert to us.

They were so pleased to perform.  The music was melodic and they beamed with pleasure as they played.  I could hear the sounds of Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road concerts as I listened to these sounds. At the end of the concert, they allowed us to try to play the instruments. Grinning broadly they helped us slide the cymbals properly and to hit the small brass plates in their center. We learned that in their scale there is no fa so in their scale.

In the evening we attended a theater presentation of the Tang Dynasty dancing. The women wore very long sleeves during that period to appear very feminine. In their dancing these sleeves were allowed to hang loose and they twirled them as very long scarves, creating a graceful appearance as if floating in the breeze. The backdrops were beautifully painted, costumes colorful, and the music sometimes quiet and meodic and other times when the "warriors: would be dancing, rhythmic and warlike.

We had walked to the theatre past the city wall, the top of it lit in green, red and yellow lights. Two of us decided to take one of the jitneys home. These are small electric golf cart-like vehicles. Four people can sit in the back "cart" facing each other. A plastic wrap goes around the sides and there is a fabric top. In the front of this "cart" the driver sits in what is a triangular area. Our driver was a woman.  There are 4 wheels under the cart and a single wheel at the very front. And then off we went. Driving about 30 miles an hour, she wove around buses, avoided motorcycles and stopped only for lights. We discovered it was our guide's first trip in one of these; she had agreed to go because she was afraid the driver would take us around town to get more money. She kept telling the driver "slower, slower" but as I watched it became evident that she couldn't go slower, She needed to keep up a pace to maneuver around the traffic.  But no problem. We arrived at our hotel safe and sound.

Filed under: China, Travel

Tags: arts, drums, music

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    Carolyn Boiarsky

    " I am an American," but not "Chicago born" like Augie March. Only Chicago aged. I'd like to think that if Henry Louis Gates were to investigate my geneology, he would discover in my past three women who traveled around the globe, chronicling their adventures. Sarah Kemble Knight traveled 112 miles by carriage from Boston to New York in 1704, a journey most women did not embark on alone (and men did so only with some trepidation). In fact, women were only just beginning to exercise their independence in the 1920's when Emily Kimbrough took off with her friend, Cornelia Otis Skinner, to explore Europe. But it is Auntie Mame, transforming herself from a New Yorker to the wife of an Austrian Baron and climbing the Matterhorn, whose mantra I have adopted. "LIFE IS A BANQUET...LIVE!" I began travelling in the 1960's when I traveled around western Europe between graduating from the Univiersity of Pennsylvania and my first job as a statehouse correspondent for UPI (United Press International) in Charleston, West Virginia, which was about as foreign a place as Europe was to someone who grew up in the environs of Philadelphia. Since then, I've also travelled to Kaunas, Lithuania, to teach at Vytautus Magnus University and to Sheffield, England, to present a paper at an engineering conference. I've been to the Alps and seen Auntie Mame's Matterhorn while climbing, by a series of cable cars rather than by foot, toward the peak of Mont Blanc. For the past 10 years my husband and I have been traveling to unique places: a sheep farm during lambing season in England's Lake Country, a hotel on one of the Barromeo Islands in the middle of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy, and a cottage in Dun Quin on the Dingle Peninsula which the Irish claim is the last parish before Boston. Between excursions, I'm a professor in the Department of English at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Indiana,. My husband passed away recently and, Auntie Mame-style, I am in the process of transforming myself. Last year I joined a tour to Central Asia. This year I'm going to China to work with the pandas. A new adventure. Another banquet.

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