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Classic music of southern winds
By Xu Wei

NANGUAN, or southern winds classical music, is the elegant precursor of many Chinese traditional operas. Nanguan is considered a UNESCO masterpiece of intangible oral heritage.

The 800-year-old genre is known for its gentle lyrics and melodies, but many young people know little about it.

On March 28, noted nanguan artist Wang Xinxin will collaborate with local musician Tang Xiaofeng in a performance of "Song of a Pipa Player," a work by poet Bai Juyi (AD 772-846).

The performance is part of the annual monthlong festival of traditional Chinese opera at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, which runs from March 21 to April 28.

It is said that nanguan originated from royal palace music, and was later developed in southern China when the court and musicians moved south.

The percussion instruments include dongxiao (vertical bamboo flute), erxian (two-stringed vertical instrument), sanxian ( three-stringed plucked instrument) and pipa (Chinese lute).

Nanguan originated in central China and flourished in Quanzhou, southeast China's Fujian Province.

It is the most ancient type in Chinese traditional music that still lives today. It shares the same stage and music structure with the music in Han (206 BC-AD220) and Tang (AD 618-907) dynasties; therefore it could be referred to as a musical fossil. In 2010, Nanguan was enlisted by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage.

Wang, 48, founded the Nanguan Ensemble, which will perform. The Quanzhou native began training with her father when she was age 4. She and her ensemble have staged around 100 performances at art and music festivals around the world.

She masters all sorts of musical instruments and gets famous for singing, enabling her to become a rare music talent who can master all the skills of nanguan.

She was also the only Chinese performer in the modern multi-media dance drama "Marco Polo," produced by the French fashion designer Pierre Cardin for the 2008 Beijing Olympics Cultural Festival.

Wang says nanguan is not an art of complex techniques. "It is plain and pure in both expression and approaches. The biggest challenge for the player is to focus on body and mind, to calm down and put the heart at rest."

In frenetic modern society, the lingering music is calming, she says.

"The music is accessible and has great potential to become international, crossover music with the introduction of modern musical and theater elements such as opera and dance."

Date: March 28, 7:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Oriental Art Center, 425 Dingxiang Rd

Tickets: 120-320 yuan

Tel: 6854-1234

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