Dance and Music Circle in Kunming


This was recorded in May 2012 in a square in the center of Kunming, China, on an Olympus ls-10.

Chinese retirees often have incredibly rich and active lives with a range of activities to keep both entertained and in contact with the community. This is one I’d never seen before. Almost every day this fluid group of folk gather here to play music, sing, dance or all of the above. Many of them were playing a four-stringed octagonal mandolin-type instrument, which have either carvings or a flashy paint job on the outside. It’s a traditional instrument from one of Yunnan’s ethnic minorities and I’ve never seen one before in China. One lady was there singing and had a clip-on mic and speaker attached to her belt, hence her loud voice. Those less musical would just dance around and be part of the circle.

Retired folk enjoying the morning

Each song would go on for a long time, then there would be a little break, some would sit out, some would join in, and another song would start. The songs seemed pretty similar to the unfamiliar ear, they all shared a sort of mesmerizing folk spirit, like a story told over and over again where the contents loses importance and it’s the telling, the process, the repetition that is the most powerful.

I hope when I’m retired this is the kind of thing I do with my time.

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