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  • Writer's pictureGuo Ke

Consider Adding Folk Songs from Miao and Dong Ethnic Minority to Your Music Classroom

When we walk into an elementary school music classroom, we will often observe young students from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds singing, dancing, and playing together. As noted by Professor Patricia Shehan Campbell in her edited book series World Music Pedagogy, “the field [music education] has the potential to hold court in a child’s holistic development as a core avenue for the discovery of human cultural heritage and the celebration of multiple identities based upon race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and socioeconomic circumstances.”

There are a few Chinese folk songs that have been used repeatedly in music textbooks since the 1960s, with the music genres represented limited to folk music from the urban Han ethnic community.This restricted representation of Chinese music introduces the danger that students will perceive Chinese music as a monolithic tradition with a uniform cultural context. China is a multi-ethnic country made up of heterogeneous people who speak entirely different languages and live in vastly different environments. Although it is nearly impossible to fully represent every aspect of Chinese music in elementary music classrooms, it is important to accurately represent China as a multi-ethnic state with diverse languages and cultures.

My mother was born in Guizhou and my grandfather often recounted stories of his visits to Miao villages on the top of mountains and Dong villages in the valleys. The global distribution of Dong and Miao populations has given rise to the development of differentiated musical cultures in different regions. For instance, the Miao people in Southeast Asia and United States are usually referred to as “Hmong” and celebrate different rituals and traditions from the Chinese Miao. As part of my research, I carried out an explorative field study in Miao and Dong villages in Guizhou’s Qiandongnan region in summer 2018. Here, I observed and interviewed several local singers, dancers, and teachers, and collected songs and dances from these primary sources.

This was filmed in Xiaohuang Village 小黄村 (Congjiang County 从江县) on July 9th, 2018.

Here are three songs for music teachers to try in the classroom. The following two videos are demonstrations from the nationally recognized local musical culture inheritors.

Demonstration of "Welcome! Our Guest!" by Tang, Wengweng, a national award-wining singing master of Miao's vocal music:

Demonstration of "Wooden Drum Dance" by Wan, Zhengwen, a nationally recognized cultural inheritor of Fanpai Miao Village (反排苗寨) Music and Dance:

To read more about my master thesis, you can download here.

Download PDF • 9.09MB

Note: Copyright reserved to the author. Please do not use these videos and scores for commercial purposes.

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