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Opera swells with drum and gong
By Tan Weiyun

LUOGUSHU, literally meaning "drum and gong opera," originated in Sijing, an ancient town in northeastern Songjiang District, and has been sung for more than seven generations.

The percussion accompanies simple lyrics and storylines.

In ancient times, during major events such as the Lantern Festival and Dragon Festival, local farmers gave luogushu performances in the center of the village at the climax of celebrations.

Despite the playing of drums and gongs, the operas are not particularly noisy. Rather, they feature a soft, pleasing rhythmic beat.

Musicians usually play at least two instruments, including various gongs and drum, flutes and the "wooden fish," a percussion instrument. The instruments are hand held or carried on the back or around necks.

There are few librettos left today. Some old ones were discovered in the homes of elderly villagers during a district-wide cultural preservation campaign in 2005.

Farmer Liu Guanyuan, now 83, was once a musician in a luogushu ensemble. He still treasures the dog-eared sheets of music and stage directions he has managed to save.

With Liu's guidance, a new luogushu ensemble was founded in 2006. Two young apprentices, Peng Jingliang and Zhang Hongsheng, were taught everything Liu knew in the hopes they will carry the art form into future generations.

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