Music of Chinese Minorities

Various Artists

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Music of Chinese Minorities Review

by Adam Greenberg

As part of King Records' on-again off-again World Music Library, the Music of Chinese Minorities was released. While King has been known to put out hit-and-miss-type recordings, with barely usable liner notes, this particular volume is relatively outstanding. Six groups of Chinese minorities are represented on the recording: the Kirgiz from Western China, the Uighur from the Sinkiang region, the Mongols, the Koreans, the Miao, and the Tibetans. The album begins with three pieces from komuz (three-stringed long necked lute) virtuoso Mahmet Tolomush, which move at a rapid pace and sound at times almost similar to medieval European folk music (but only at times). Following this is Dawut Awut on the Uighurs' traditional instrument, the rewab. These pieces are folk music for the most part, but the "Interlude in Rak Mode" is actually a piece of Uighur classical music based on one of the 12 traditional modes, sounding in many ways similar to Persian classical music, with the improvisatory style over a set of modes. The Mongolian morin khuur is represented next, with its characteristic horse impressions abounding. Korean music is represented by solo haegeum (two-stringed spike fiddle) by Cui Yong. The pieces do, at times, sound mildly like the Chinese erhu, though whether or not they are representative of Korean music could be questioned. The Miao mouth organ, the lu-sheng (much like the Laotian khen, somewhat like the Japanese sho) is represented by itself, with fast and loud music, accompanied by itself on a drone pipe attached to the instrument. Finally, the Tibetans are represented with a heavily shortened piece of the grandeur of Tibetan Opera; this piece is a ten-minute sampling of the opening number of an opera, usually lasting an hour or two, and that's just the opening number. Still, the grandeur is represented relatively fairly. Overall, if you are in the mood for the minorities' music, this isn't a bad compilation, though the styles are so heavily varied that it might not be a bad idea to find it at a library and decide which styles you prefer before actually buying the anything, and maybe going for a few solo styles.

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