China News Service, Kunming, February 21 (Chen Chen) At the beginning of the Year of the Dragon, 73-year-old Chen Zhihe, a grandmother from the Wa ethnic group, took the stage at the 2024 Yunnan Province Spring Festival Gala. Chen Zhihe, who was in high spirits and dressed in Wa costumes, performed the Wa music "Yangge" on the same stage with the "post-80s" and "post-00s" Wa singers to a cheerful beat.

The picture shows a still from a performance by Chen Zhihe (first from right). Photo provided by the party organizer

  Chen Zhihe's voice, nourished by the Awa Mountains, is not pretentious. Even after many years, it is still naturally powerful, translucent and warm. Netizens from all over the country have given positive comments - "What belongs to the nation is what belongs to the world" and "Grandma's original singing voice is filled with the good water of Leshan, Yunnan."

  Seventy years is rare in life, but it is not unusual for the Wa people to still be able to sing and dance. The Wa people's creation epic "Sigangli" says that the Wa people were born from gourds and could walk, dance, talk and sing. To this day, the Wa people still sing ancient songs in daily life and rituals such as marriages and love affairs, festivals, and production and labor.

  The Wa people do not have writing, and their music comes from daily life and is passed down orally and spread naturally in daily life. When family members chatted and sang songs by the firepit, when people worked and sang folk songs, when they gathered for joy at the Lamu Drum Festival...singing songs always sounded, creating a naturally full classroom for Chen Zhihe.

  "I have worked in the fields with my elders since I was a child. The work was very hard and boring, so they used singing to drive away the hard work. This is how I learned to sing." Chen Zhihe can't tell who is her teacher.

  In addition, Chen Zhihe often teaches each other songs with friends in the same village. Music breeds joy and freedom in Awa Mountain. If one party fails to memorize the entire song, they will talk to each other one by one until the song is complete.

The picture shows Chen Zhihe singing. Photo provided by the party organizer

  In 1976, Chen Zhihe entered the leather factory in Cangyuan County to work. She recalled that when she first started working in the factory, she stopped singing for a long time because of the changes in living space and rhythm, and she often felt depressed. Once, while listening to the creaking sound of the machine at work, she couldn't help singing a familiar tune. "I didn't expect that many people in the factory were attracted. They praised me for singing well and wanted to learn from me."

  After that, the noise in other people's ears became the accompaniment of Chen Zhihe's singing. In her opinion, “As long as the Wa music can flow, you can feel comfortable in life.”

  After retiring, Chen Zhihe joined the county's "Sunset Red" band. She sang to her heart's content from fields and factories to Wa song contests, the New Rice Festival, and the Mo Ni Hei Carnival.

  Music flows naturally here at Chen Zhihe. "I don't know how to say many song titles in Chinese, but I just know how to sing them." Chen Zhihe can name more than 30 song titles in Wa language. There are many songs that can always wake up the memory completely as long as she can hum the tune a little. Sing the whole song.

  "I have always loved singing. If I have the opportunity to sing, I will cherish it. If I don't have the opportunity to sing, I will live my life." Chen Zhihe said.

  Chen Zhihe sang happily with a peaceful heart, attracting a fellow traveler on the music road - the "post-80s" Wa musician and producer Cha Ainan. Cha Ainan has been committed to the integration and development of national music and modern music. His works such as "UP Gengma" have even become popular in Southeast Asia.

  For this Yunnan Province Spring Festival Gala, Cha Ainan combined the traditional musical instruments of the Wa ethnic group with guitars and synthesizers, re-edited and produced "Yangge", and performed it on stage together with Chen Zhihe. "These young people like to listen to my 'old antiques' very much." Chen Zhihe did not expect that he would mingle with a group of young people.

  In the 1960s, a song "Awa People Sing a New Song" spread throughout the country, singing a new look of the Awa people's transformation into singing. In recent years, more and more Wa young people have joined the team of innovative development of traditional music. Songs such as "Ba Rao" and "Tong Samei" flow out of the Wa Mountains like a clear spring. The Awa people once again sang a new song of openness and integration.

  Because of the flowing water from the source, the grandmother who sang folk songs traveled from the county town to the provincial capital, and from Kunming to Shenzhen, carrying the songs of Awa Mountain farther and farther. Nowadays, grandma has started a daily routine of "receiving announcements" from all over the country.

  Chen Zhihe was very excited to be on the Yunnan Provincial Spring Festival Gala this time. She said, "I will still be nervous if I go on stage alone, but I feel confident when I am with young people. I hope more people can hear the music of the Wa people, and I also hope that this music will be passed down forever." (End)