Village galas present cultural prosperity in rural areas

(People's Daily Online) 15:02, February 04, 2024

In recent years, the vibrant cultural and sports activities in rural areas have gained significant attention. Following the success of "Village BA" and "Village Super League," the "Village Gala" has emerged as a popular event, showcasing the rich heritage of folk art and the people's aspiration for an enhanced cultural life.

Under the guidance of the Public Service Department of China's Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Douyin and the China Public Cultural Centers Association have collaborated to launch a program to support rural cultural talent in hosting and live-streaming galas in their hometowns.

Photo shows Zhang Yong (left), a drum and gong performer, and Zhang Yunjian (right), an allegro artist, during a performance. (Photo courtesy of the organizer of the village gala)

The first-ever gala of its kind recently took place in north China's Shanxi Province and central China's Hunan Province, attracting over 15.57 million viewers online.

In Linfen city, Shanxi, almost every village has its own drum and gong team. According to Zhang Yong, a representative inheritor of the drum and gong performance, his village truly comes alive when the vibrant beats of drums and gongs resonate through the air.

Born in 1978, Zhang began learning to play the drum and gong at the age of 15, and has been involved with these instruments since then.

As the organizer of the gala in his village, Zhang carefully chose the stage, which is located in the heart of the village. This particular spot is dear to him as it is where he first discovered his passion for drumming. While there may be stages with more advanced facilities, Zhang believes that the true essence of the gala lies in its deep connection to the villagers.

The gala drew 300 to 400 villagers, who eagerly gathered to watch the performances. The livestream gained over 100,000 likes quickly after the first two acts. As the performances progressed, the spaces on either side of the stage, initially reserved for actors, were filled with crowds. Some villagers even found vantage points on the second floor of nearby buildings to catch a glimpse of the show. Both online and offline, everyone joined in a jubilant atmosphere.

Members of a Miao ethnic band perform a song with children. (Photo courtesy of the organizer of the village gala)

In Fenghuang county, Hunan Province, which is over 1,000 kilometers away, a Miao ethnic band organized a parallel event in conjunction with the event in Linfen.

The band selected the village's basketball court as the venue for their gala, highlighting the significance of their hometown in their musical compositions. They likened their hometown to sturdy soil that nurtures a mighty tree. Each song they performed was connected to their roots, which was why they opted to host a village gala there.

During the event, they performed several original songs that depicted Miao customs and way of life. The livestream attracted over 7.8 million viewers on Douyin.

The gala not only positioned the stage at the entrance of the village but also featured the villagers as the central performers. Close to 200 villagers took part in the gala performances held in both locations. In the Linfen event, the performance teams included individuals from as young as 8 years old to as old as 77 years.

The village gala not only showcases impressive data but also embodies a rich cultural legacy that brings delight.

Members of a drum and gong troupe in Linfen, north China's Shanxi Province, rehearse for a village gala amid snow. (Photo courtesy of the organizer of the village gala)

The opening song of the gala in Hunan is an original composition by the Miao ethnic band. It draws inspiration from the local tradition, where people swing rice cakes on a beam when moving into a new house to invite good fortune.

During the performance, the band members swung rice cakes, adding a unique element to the song. Alongside Miao ethnic music, the audience enjoyed a lively showcase of Miao ethnic costumes, dances, waist drums, and lion dances, highlighting the diverse and vibrant beauty of Miao culture.

Like the Miao band, Zhang is also committed to preserving and inheriting the cultural heritage of his hometown. Since 2008, he has visited over 300 villages, collecting and documenting more than 1,500 compositions. In this village gala, he not only arranged traditional musical performances but also incorporated innovative elements such as broom rhythms and modern pop music accompaniments.

On Douyin, many talented live streamers, like Zhang, have organized village galas in their hometowns.

Records show that between December 2022 and December 2023, approximately 5,000 village galas were live-streamed on Douyin, attracting a total viewership of 22.97 million. This averages to 13 village gala livestreams per day, with an average audience of over 4,500 people per session.

Local villagers, clad in Miao costumes, put on a performance. (Photo courtesy of the organizer of the village gala)

(Web editor: Chang Sha, Liang Jun)


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