Lijiang (China), July 28 : Every evening for two hours, about a hundred music lovers gather to listen to the ancient Naxi music in the 800 years old Lijiang Old Town, a world heritage site which attracts visitors from different parts of the world, in Yunnan province of China.
Their charm is to listen to an orchestra comprising 20 elderly men, at least four of them octogenarians and two of them blind. It plays scintillating traditional music on over a century old musical instruments like the "Erhu" or "Pippa".
These elderly men are between 70 to 90 years of age. Some of them cannot even walk without somebody's help. But they play a fantastic music by using antique musical instruments here.
"I'm very impressed about it. It's also a great performance. Especially, you know that it's been a long time that it was forbidden to play this music. So it is very good to hear it in this country and especially by these individuals who perform so well," said Ed Firrow, one enthusiastic visitor.
During the Cultural Revolution, launched by Mao, this kind of music was banned in China for several decades.
Elders, within the Naxi ethnic minority group, however, preserved this ancient music tradition, which comprises three parts including Baisha fine music dating back to Kublei Khan of the Yuan dynasty, Dongjing Music and Huangjing music.
A result of 500 years of evolution, this music is a crystallisation of Taoist rites, Confucian ceremony, literary lyrics and poetic topics with the musical tones of Tang.
Instruments, like the flute, Shawn (Chinese flute), flectrum and zither, are deftly manipulated by these old hands to produce the music, which is often valued as a living fossil of Chinese music.
Besides, five young girls also practice with these elders, which the girls consider as a learning experience. These elders, who are also their teachers, admit that they practice with the girls for an hour every evening ahead of going on stage for a gruelling two-hour public performance.
At times they have to endure extremely tiresome exertion. But this has never stopped them from playing their music for the pleasure of the masses.
According to the master, it is essential that the old men to perform because unlike the youngsters who are influenced by pop music, this kind of sound can be produced only from one's spirit or soul.
"This is a traditional and classical music that only the aged musician can play this very well. Whereas young people are influenced by pop music so unfortunately most youngsters do not have the capability to play with the spirit and soul of the music. So the aged music is very important," said Xuan Ke, Master of the orchestra.
This orchestra has also been invited to play in countries like the USA, UK, Belgium, Holland and Norway for performances.
"The Naxi Orchestra was reformed in 1981 by our master Mr. Xuan Ke. In 1986, we staged the first concert here and since then we were invited to many domestic cities as well as many western countries. We performed a lot of ancient musical and introduced them. Some of the musicians here are above 70 years of age and we are warmly welcomed by the people throughout the world," said Ma Yumei, a young performer.
Further, Yumei added, "There is one musician he is already 80. There are two people here they are 80 years another is 82 and 84. The oldest of all is the one who is 86 years old."
Visitors are expected to pay an amount between Renminbi 120 to160 (Chinese currency) (about Rs. 742 to 990) for attending the performance.
Though the elders are paid for their performance. But, for them it's not merely a way to earn a living. It's a way to preserve a centuries old tradition, providing it a world platform, and expecting that more youngsters, like the five girls to come forth to take the special music ahead into the future - but definitely as they grow much older. By Ajitha Menon