Folk music popular again in China

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Recently a contestant on a televised talent show, Zhao Lei's performance has helped bring folk music back to center stage in China.

Singer Zhao Lei [Photo/Xinhua]

On the show Zhao, 31, from Beijing, wore a simple T-shirt and a modest smile. His quiet voice, in sharp contrast to his competitors who belted out the high notes, touched many.

Folk music is no longer mainstream in China, but has returned to the nation's sitting rooms via popular TV talent shows.

Moxizishi, 38, from the Daliang Mountains in southwest China's Sichuan Province, is one to have benefited. A bar singer in Beijing like many unknown singers, he found fame in 2014 via a music competition.

Such programs are an excellent channel for folk music, he said, allowing the singer's talent and the folk song's charm to shine through.

An evolving music festival scene in China also offers a stage for folk singers. There were close to 150 festivals in 2014, attended by more than 3 million people spending nearly 380 million yuan on tickets. Since then, the Internet has provided more opportunities for folk song singers.

"University students and the urban middle class are big fans of folk music. They are more than willing to pay for, and downloads, music," said music journalist Wang Zheng. "It is a very good thing for independent artists."

But in Moxizishi eyes, it is the timeless appeal of folk songs that continues to attract a fan base.

"Folk songs are a kind of poetry, with both strength and humanity. They tell the stories of both individuals and a whole society," he said. "In times of rapid change, songs about love, life, nature and the nature of existence bring people relief, and even redemption."

U.S. folk singer and songwriter Bob Dylan won the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature for having created "new poetic expressions within the great American tradition."

"His music is full of compassion and love of people. It is not just emotional expression but also a criticism of society," Moxizishi said.

"Only when people listen to the deeper meaning beyond melody and lyrics will the folk song have a real renaissance," said singer Zhang Quan.

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