Eight farmers from a remote village in northwest China have delivered one surprising moment after another to New Yorkers with their wild energetic style music that was centuries old.
Led by pipa virtuoso Wu Man, the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band, which comprises farmers from Huayin County, China's Shanxi Province, showcased a little known Chinese folk music called "Lao Qiang," which is roughly translatable as "Old Tune," at the New York Society for Ethical Culture Saturday evening.
Wu Man, who also performed solo pipa, and the farmers band are on a 12-city U.S. tour, running from March 1-25, in cities including Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC.
From the moment the band took the stage with vigorous and boastful cry of Zhang Ximin, a senior artist of Lao Qiang Opera, these Chinese folk musicians were never less than 100 percent committed to raising the roof.
"It's really an exciting thing!" Robert Martin, director of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, New York, told Xinhua after the show. "The passion, the energy of their music is amazing."
Theodore Levin, professor of music at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, agreed.
"It's very sophisticated, it got rock power, they are masters," Levin said. "That (wood) bench is unique, it involves a lot of expertise. "
Levin referred to the unique percussion instrument -- a long bench pounded by a band member with a wooden block.
The bench, which was brought here all the way from the farmer's home, was among a variety of Chinese folk music instruments like yueqin (a banjo like instrument with four-strings), erhu, lute and fiddle the band uses to tell lively stories of rural life in sounds rarely heard in the West.
Lao Qiang is lauded as the ancient Rock and Roll of The East, comprised of energetic folk music that has roots over 2000 years old. It features high pitch singing, accompanied by a band of traditional Chinese instruments in dynamic rhythms and beats.
Traditionally, Lao Qiang musicians would accompany a puppeteer, who would tell stories from behind the screen.