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Participation in musical ethnographic fieldwork in rural China

Participation in musical ethnographic fieldwork in rural China

Jonathan Sullivan18 Apr 2014Leave a comment


Written by Catherine Ingram.

During the past nine years I have undertaken more than 24 months of ethnographic research in rural Kam (in Chinese, Dong 侗) minority areas of southwestern China to investigate Kam music. Through being invited to participate in daily activities and musical events in rural Kam communities, and through my involvement in the lives of Kam friends and teachers, I have learnt to speak the Kam language and sing many Kam songs (singing is the main musical activity in Kam communities). The range of activities I have participated in together with Kam friends has extended from preparing food, collecting wild foods in the mountains, and planting and harvesting rice to learning Kam songs, watching and discussing VCD and DVD recordings of Kam singing performances, and singing various genres of Kam songs at weddings, at New Year celebrations and in many staged performances. A documentary about my research that was produced by Guizhou Television in 2011 (based on an earlier documentary made by the same director in 2006) gives an overview of some of the many different ways in which I participated in Kam community and musical life.

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