Friday, February 02, 2007

Street Music, Part 1

I'm mostly going to let the videos do the talking in this update. Suffice it to say that Shanghai has a fair number of street musicians. Perhaps not as many as in San Francisco or New York, but they're common enough to see in areas that are crowded, but not too crowded. I guess the police keep them away from performing inside the People's Square Station, or the central shopping district of Nanjing Lu.

The following three videos were all taken in the tunnels leading to Jing'an Station. I'll start off with perhaps my favorite.

Pretty talented! Compare and contrast to the following fellow, who as far as I can tell isn't actually playing a song, just making loud noises. On the other hand his tone is OK and I wonder if he can actually play pretty well, and just makes these loud nonsese sounds due to having only several seconds to attract people's attentions as they walk past.

Here's a longer video of an erhu player whose talents lie somewhere between the first two. I've heard him play better, but I wasn't getting it on tape!

Most of these street musicians are blind. Perhaps it's an expected profession for the blind, and they don't recieve government assistance or have much infrastructure to help them. Another common thing to see is street musicians being led down the street by a partner, such as this example from near Beijing Lu. It usually looks like a husband and wife partnership, but I have no idea if that's really the case - I'll talk about it in a future update.

The large majority of the musicians are playing the erhu, a two-string violin-type instrument, traditionally with a snakeskin base. There's also the occasional college kid playing guitar, or other traditional instruments being played, such as the Souna (a sort of bugle), the Xiao (a kind of flute), or the Sheng. That last instrument is a really complicated mouth organ, as shown below, with a video taken near Zhongshan Park:

Oh, and a few notes. First off, the videos are hosted on, a Chinese imitation of Please let me know if there's any problems viewing them, it's no bother to mirror or move the videos onto youtube.

Also, a lot of the videos, and some of the recent pictures, have been taken with my new Canon Ixus 850 (SD 800), an ultra-compact that I take with me everywhere I go! I wish it had manual controls, but I'm otherwised very pleased with the camera.

The tagging system is new, it should make navigating content a lot more manageable than posting several year's of content by month. I'd appreciate any recommendations on that.

Finally, about this update, it's an area that interests me greatly! I won't follow-up immediately, but expect some more posts on the subject over the next several months.

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