An introduction to “New Chinese Folk Songs”

Chinese folk songs are often considered to be old-fashioned by the youth. However, in recent years, some Chinese singers trained in folk singing have absorbed elements of the pop music and created the so-called “new Chinese folk songs” (新民歌). Tang Can (汤灿), Zhang Yan (张燕), and Tan Jing (谭晶) are representative of this revival of Chinese folk songs.

Tang Can was the pioneer in this innovative trend. In 2000, she promoted her song A Million Years of Happiness (幸福万年长) composed by a famous pop-song writer. Her natural singing gave people a refreshing view of Chinese folk songs. The delicate design of the MTV was also appealing to young audience. This song absorbs the essence of folk songs — the subtle “Chinese” feel — but is not restricted to the conventional composition of folk songs.

Zhang Yan adopts a different interpretation of folk songs. Her voice is sweet and adorable. She has songs that emphasizes the folk features in them, among them the most famous example is Daughter of the Moon (月亮女儿). On the other hand, she also perform songs in a jazz-like way. Ye Lai Xiang , for example, is an 1930s song refurnished by Zhang. The song replicates the unique feeling of the 1930s Shanghai women but also caters to modern audience’s tastes.

Tan Jing is a bit of a rebel from folk singing, in that she sings more like a pop singer than folk song singer. Her song Sky (天空), shown in the opening ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympics, is a perfect example. Another song, Distant Love (远情), is an incident in a popular Chinese TV series. Rich in content, this song incorporates Chinese traditional musical instruments and carries a heavy feeling of time changes.

I believe in the eternal beauty of the Chinese way of singing. Hopefully people (especially the youth) will be able to appreciate our precious cultural heritage better through novel performance and publicity methods.

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