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East and West to Sing in Shaanxi
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Folk singers at the first Yulin International Folk Songs Festival in 2006

The second Yulin International Folk Songs Festival will be held in Yulin, a city located in north Shaanxi Province. This year's Folk Songs Festival will feature exchanges between three major folk song cultures – Shanbei folk songs of China, Russian folk songs and African-American music. Because this year is the 400th anniversary of Zhenbeitai Tower, part of the Great Wall in Yulin City, the festival will be co-sponsored by the Great Wall Association.

"The Great Wall is a famous world heritage site listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Shanbei folk songs are also honorably listed as part of China's Intangible Culture Heritage. We are glad to have a chance to participate in this festival," said Han Guowei, the director of International Exchange Office of the Great Wall Association at a press conference on August 14. He also thanked the Russian Embassy and US Embassy for their support regarding these events.

On the night of August 26, the festival will open at the foot of the Zhenbeitai Tower, which is already decorated with thousands of colored lights. Musicians from China, Russia and America will perform all kinds of folk songs and music. The event will end on August 27.

Wang Xiangrong, honored as the king of folk singers in west China areas and Sun Zhikuan, the top singer of Xintianyou (the most celebrated form of Shanbei folk songs), will perform at the concert. Band Bobby Rush, a Russian group that mainly plays typical Blues music, and many other Russian bands will also attend the performances honoring "Russia Year" in China.

The Yulin International Folk Song Festival will disseminate knowledge about the art of each nation's folk songs. It will also improve cultural exchanges between China and the world.

Folk Songs are part of the invaluable cultural heritage of a nation; they represent part of the soul of the nation. Folk songs reflect the history, culture, customs, and lifestyle of a culture as well as the natural environment of the people who created them. Due to national characteristics and ancient cultural differences, folk songs in different countries have different styles, themes and forms.

Shanbei Folk Songs, whose main birthplace lies in north Shaanxi Province, personifies the distinctiveness and soul of the special culture that developed on the Loess Plateau in China. Shanbei Folk Songs have also played a unique role in the development of Chinese traditional music. These songs directly reflect the Shanbei people and their lives. The lyrics are the result of these hardy people's spirits, thoughts, and feelings.

Russian folk songs are an important part of world folk songs. Russia, a vast land with unique geographical conditions and customs, has contributed to the distinctively bold and optimistic character of Russian nation. World War II brought out their strong sense of self-respect. Russian folk songs of this period display the indomitable spirit of Russian nation.

The history of African-American music is very complicated. From the 17th to 18th centuries, the African people were sent to North America where they suffered greatly as slaves and indentured servants. Music became the primary way many of them expressed both their misery and sought spiritual consolation. After slavery was abolished these American black people kept their African musical traditions, and at the same time, influenced by European music, gradually created new musical genres. Blues, Ragtime, Soul Music, Gospel Music are some examples of this mix. Undoubtedly Blues and Ragtime have had great impact on the creation of Jazz. Even today, their influence still remains in Jazz.

( by Chen Lin, August 15, 2007)

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