Singing while smiling


By He Baicun (Joint Artistic Director, Big Tree Community Arts Centre, Hong Kong)

Song: The eight solar terms in four seasons
A local folk song (listen)


Editor’s note: Our country has had a period of loss, in culture and art. Even remote villages which have deep cultural and historical roots are now faced with problems of cultural conservation and transmission and the continuing development of creativity. However local culture and art is the best way for local people to express their feelings about the quality and reality of everyday life. PCD believes that when villagers’ capability in appreciating their own traditional culture is reawakened, the community will be able to create new opportunities for the younger generation to respect, love and care for their cultural roots.

Because of this, PCD has launched a programme in Bailinwan Village of Huaxi Township, in Bazhong City, Sichuan, to restore the vitality of this rural community by strengthening the sense of belonging, through community art. He Baicun, a veteran resource-person on community music and drama, and his team have been asked to help the villagers organise a folk-song learning group by bringing together talented folk singers in the village—mostly middle-aged men in their fifties or sixties. He and his team then record folk songs and orchestrate the music. As a result, the folk singers, being proud of and identified with the folk songs they sing, are willing to pass on the art of folk-singing. In the meantime, activities in the village school are organised by He Baicun’s team with the folk singers. They compose songs together with children aged four to eight and teach them to sing folk songs. By bringing together the elderly and the children, the programme is helping the village to pass on the art of folk-song singing and the culture embodied in folk songs.

Singing while smiling

What impressed me most during the days when we were in Tongjiang doing community music was the smiles of everyone when we sang…

Whenever we play music together everyone, old and young, is always happy and always so genuine and sincere…

There is no magnificent musical instrument, complicated musical arrangement or refined skills. What everyone has is only a heart which is joyful because of music…

Because of this heart of joy everyone in the village sings and laughs together. Children share the joy of their grandparents when the latter sing and elderly people smile with joy and gratitude when children sing and hum traditional melodies…

In music, no matter what our age, gender or background, the joy expressed in everyone’s smile is the same… the different voices of everyone singing the same song together, and accompanied by the chirping of birds and insects, instantly converge to become one voice that belongs to everyone and to nature too… it is a voice that touches one deeply…

Music becomes a rainbow bridge that connects everyone’s hearts, and I am grateful I am among them.

“Music is like trees. Music is like apples. Music is like my best friends…” (Quoted from songs composed by children of Bailinwan Village.)

I hope music will continue to bring us ease and well-being, to be sweet and beautiful, and to continue to be the friend of each of us…

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Dragon dance played by the children── let's dance following the rhythm
Dragon dance played by the children ──bamboo drum group
The first song composted by the children. Music is….
Children followed the rhythm by singing and swinging their body. When music is like a tree….
Children followed the rhythm by singing and swinging their body. When music is like a peach….
Rhythm game ── what do you eat today?