Cantonese Instrumental Music

2009-06-25 21:36 BJT

Cantonese instrumental music was called ching yam prior to the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949. Cantonese instrumental tunes have been used in Cantonese opera, either as incidental instrumental music or as fixed tunes to which new texts were composed, since the 1930s.

The use of instruments in Cantonese opera is influenced by both western and eastern cultures. The reason for this is that Canton was one of the earliest places in China to establish trade relationships with the western civilizations. In addition, Hong Kong was under heavy western influence when it was a British colony. These factors contributed to the observed western elements in Cantonese opera.

For instance, the use of erhu (two string bowed fiddle), saxophones, guitars and the congas have demonstrated how diversified the musical instruments in Cantonese operas are.

The musical instruments are mainly divided into melodic and percussive types.

Traditional musical instruments used in Cantonese opera include wind, strings and percussion. The winds and strings encompass erhu, gaohu, yehu, yangqin, pipa and dizi, while the percussion comprises many different drums and cymbals. The percussion controls the overall rhythm and pace of the music, while the gaohu leads the orchestra.

The instrumental ensemble of Cantonese opera is comprised of two sections: the melody section and the percussion section. The percussion section has its own vast body of musical materials, generally called lo gu dim or simply lo gu. These 'percussion patterns' serve a variety of specific functions.

Editor: Zhao Yanchen | Source: