“This drum was used in wars to encourage soldiers. In some worship rituals it was used to communicate with God. It is a token in our Chinese culture.”
This is how the Chinese drum is described by chief percussionist of the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra (SHCO), Wang Yinrui.
One can also add that the Chinese drum was instrumental to the creation of an atmosphere of burning flames in A Dance of Fire, composed by Huang Lei and Huang Ke.
Hitting these instruments with military precision, the Shanghai Drum Culture Art Troupe were spectacular to watch: Their lightning-paced arm movements seemed perfectly choreographed.
Instruments played by SHCO members, such as the djembe, African flute, bongo drums and tabla, fused into their rhythms, creating a suspenseful work of art.
Teaser of A Dance of Fire performance.
The illusion of fire was enhanced by a visual presentation of flames, under the artistic direction of Tang Ping.
A Dance of Fire forms part of a four chapter musical production, Our Common Homeland, which premiered in the Shanghai Grand Theatre on Novemer 5.
Showcasing the talent of mainland China’s oldest large scale Chinese orchestra (SHCO) and 31 guest musicians, the first two nights attracted an estimated 2500 audience members.
According to SHCO head, Luo Xiaoci, “Chinese instruments are open to a dialogue with a wide variety of musical instruments from around the world” in Our Common Homeland.
One such dialogue takes place in The Ride of Waves by Huang Lei.
This intriguing collaboration was brought to life by Yu Bing on the Chinese pipa and Enrique Sáez Palazón on the Spanish guitar.
Award winning flamenco dancers Liu Xiao and Liang Daiqingan accompanied them on stage.
Bing got to explore fiercer dimensions on the pipa, an instrument with strokes that are usually gentler when played the traditional way.
Teaser of ‘The Ride of Waves’.
Also, according to Bing, Flamenco leaves more room for improvisation.
“The normal process we are used to, the composer gives us the score and tell us to follow the notes completely. But when a performer performs this work, he is flesh and blood,” he said in this interview.
Audience members, old and young, remained mesmerized by the fleeting visuals progressing through the different chapters – From Origins of the Universe to Lights of Civilisation.
Landscapes from Egypt, Mongolia, China and Russia, as well as the inside of a night club are but a few to mention.
The musical genres included world, folk, electronic and rock.
Other composers whose works were performed were Tan Dun, Wang Yunfei, Ravi Shankar, Tang Jianping and Yi Latu.
SHCO has traveled to Europe and Mexico before and according to Global Marketing Manager, Andrea Xu, they plan to take Our Common Homeland overseas as well.
“The following performance date and location are still in discussion,” she said.