Song of the Dong

music: Dong songs

According to the Dong people of southwestern China, “Rice is food for the body, and song is food for the soul.” I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

We’re in Guay-Jo province in southwest China, listening to the traditional songs of the Dong, One of about 50 minority groups in China, the Dong people have long used song as a means of recounting and preserving their history.

Norman Geary is a researcher at Guay-Jo University.

“The history is that the Dong have never had an orthography, they’ve never had a writing system until the year 1958. And so before that the Dong culture, the Dong stories and history were recoded, really, by means of song. That’s not literally recorded on cassette, but passed down from generation to generation. It’s really a kind of Dong literature, an unwritten literature, the songs that were passed down.”

In addition to passing down stories, Dong music has traditionally been used to negotiate social and individual events. There is music for working in the fields, music for offering wine to a guest and music for dating.

Not long ago, eligible Dong bachelors would travel the local countryside and, through song, request permission to enter a village. If the women of the village sang back an invitation, the men would be permitted to enter and the women would judge them on their wit and talent, all through the medium of song.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

music

Song of the Dong

The Dong people, one of about 50 minority groups in China, have long used song as a means of recounting and preserving their history.
Air Date:05/30/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:


music: Dong songs

According to the Dong people of southwestern China, "Rice is food for the body, and song is food for the soul." I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

We're in Guay-Jo province in southwest China, listening to the traditional songs of the Dong, One of about 50 minority groups in China, the Dong people have long used song as a means of recounting and preserving their history.

Norman Geary is a researcher at Guay-Jo University.

"The history is that the Dong have never had an orthography, they've never had a writing system until the year 1958. And so before that the Dong culture, the Dong stories and history were recoded, really, by means of song. That's not literally recorded on cassette, but passed down from generation to generation. It's really a kind of Dong literature, an unwritten literature, the songs that were passed down."

In addition to passing down stories, Dong music has traditionally been used to negotiate social and individual events. There is music for working in the fields, music for offering wine to a guest and music for dating.

Not long ago, eligible Dong bachelors would travel the local countryside and, through song, request permission to enter a village. If the women of the village sang back an invitation, the men would be permitted to enter and the women would judge them on their wit and talent, all through the medium of song.

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music