Farmers banging their trash bucket drums at Shanghai's Pudong New Area hope to perform at 2010 Expo. [Photo: shanghaidaily.com]
A white swill barrel produces a high-pitched note, a blue trash bucket makes a deep and powerful sound, and a grey water pail makes a great snare drum - everyday household items become magical musical instruments in a display of percussion music by farmers of Gaodong Town in Shanghai's Pudong New Area.
Bang! Bang! Bang! The deafening drums fill the audience with excitement.
With serious expressions on their faces, 25 local farmers aged 50 to 60 are rhythmically hitting drumsticks against household items. Flushed with health, they look young and vibrant.
"Sanlin Town excels in dragon dancing while Chuansha Town specializes in martial arts," said Ma Zhiyue, director of the cultural center. "But what is the unique culture feature of Gaodong Town? That's how we came to the idea of organizing a drum band by using traditional farming utilities in a non-traditional way."
The band was welcomed by local farmers once it was formed at the end of 2006. Many local farmers joined the team enthusiastically and the town asked professionals from Shanghai Percussion Music Association to help.
"Our leisure activities used to be quite boring. Now, we not only get exercise but also make more new friends through drumming," said Shi Dayin, a 58-year-old woman who was one of the first to join. Ma said one lady's shoulder pain disappeared gradually after she began to take part in the activity.
However, some didn't stay for the entire course. A few members left at the beginning because they felt it was too hard to keep up with the lesson.
"I started training them in a professional way because we aim to make them perform for the audience in large scale activities," said Yang Nan, the tutor of the band who graduated from Percussion Department of Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
It took four months for members to make the grade. The amateur drummers started by learning how to read music and other basic knowledge of music theory. Then they learnt to clap beats with their hands before being allowed to pick up drumsticks.
Farmers use their leisure time to practice and Yang instructs them one afternoon a week. After training, they made great progress and won the Bronze Prize of the Second National Drum Arts Competition last November.
"They have achieved enormous progress," Yang said proudly. "We aim to make it as a performing band for the 2010 Expo."
(Shanghai Daily March 3, 2008)