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Hua’er Folksong
Suonan Sunbin performs in a televised program..
Suonan Sunbin performs in a televised program.
Photo courtesy of Zhu Zhizhong, CCTV

Hua’er is a folksong form popular among several ethnic groups in northwestern China. Literally meaning “flower,” it may have received its name from the image of a flower symbolizing one’s beloved woman. Many hua’er songs begin with metaphoric and symbolic depictions of scenery, before developing into the real theme, which may be young love, the hard work and weariness of the farming life, and the foibles of men and women. The music is drawn from an extensive traditional repertoire named after ethnicities, towns, or flowers. The lyrics are improvised in keeping with certain rules.

Suonan Sunbin 索南孙斌 is a Tibetan singer from Qinghai Province, who has been singing hua’er since age seven. When he was a teenager, he left home and worked at mines, construction sites and restaurants, before he began to study at Qinghai Culture and Arts Academy in 1999. He has since released several albums and performed both nationally and internationally. Cairang Zhuoma 才让卓玛 is a Tibetan singer from Qinghai Province who has won a number of awards, including the Silver Award at the Folksongs Competition of Northwestern China in 2003. From Gansu Province, Kong Weifang 孔维芳 has sung hua’er since childhood. She won the Silver Award at the Western China Hua’er Competition in 2006 and released her first album in 2013.

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