Asia and Africa Meet on the National Mall

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Heavenly Maiden Scattering Flowers

The 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival placed the cultures of China and Kenya in the spotlight. (No US regions or cultures were featured this this year.)

Dominating the entrance to the festival was a large Flower Plaque or bamboo gateway, made by artist Danny Yung fom Hong Kong. His anime figure Tien Tien pointed the way in.

Each year I look forward to learning about a culture and wonder what I will take away from it. This year, it was the music and dance of China and Kenya. I attended four performances in the China area. First, the Ih Tsetsn Ensemble from Inner Mongolia played their traditional Morin Khuur sting instruments. (They are bowed, about the size of a cello, and have horse-head shaped tuning  pegs and scroll.) There were soon joined by American banjo player Abigail Washburn, who has toured in China, for a set of Asian-Appalachian fusion music! Next was the Leishan Miao Music and Dance Ensemble from Guizhou Province.

Flower Plaque (Tiang Tiang Xiang Shang Gateway)
I enjoyed their colorful costumes (with silver headpieces), dances, and music making with traditional Lusheng bamboo flutes.

For lunch, I headed to Kenya to try Tilapia, highland style, with spinach and a cornmeal mash. While there, I watched a group of traditional dancers from Western Kenya and craftmen and artisans from the Coast build a dhow, sew a Kofia cap, and work on plaster decoration.

Returning to China, a rehearsal for a later performance of the Flower Drum Lantern Dance was in propgress. At the Five Spice Kitchen, chefs demonstrated preparation of Mountain Ox Stir-Fry and making pancakes for Beef Rolls.

But, the performance I enjoyed most of all was the Wu Opera from Zhejiang Province. Wu Opera gave a cross-section of Chinese Opera performing styles  A Suona (woodwind) player and an Erhu (two string bowed instrument) player demonstrated typical instruments used to accompany the operas.

Leshan Miao Music and Dance Group
  Inn at the Crossroads presented an heroic and a comic martial arts combatants. Heavenly Beauty Scatters Flowers was an elaborate ribbon dance. Finally, the Nine Part Dragon dance brought down the house. (They troupe also presented a full Chinese opera, The Legend of the White Snake, one evening, but I was not able to attend.) I learned so much about Chinese opera from this one concert, that I wanted to know more!

I returned for a second visit to the Folklife Festival the following Wednesday, The summer heat was scorching! But, the performers and craftspeopel went on. Contemporary Kenyan pop musicans fused African and Western styles. (The used modern drums and electric guitars along with Kenyan instruments! They were haveing as much fun as the audience, I think!) Lunch this time was Chicken Curry over coconut rice, a dish from the Kenyan Coast.

Another great Smithsonian Folklife Festival!

gingerbatik says:
beautiful pictures
Posted on: Oct 13, 2014
Zagnut66 says:
I didn't spend too much time at the festival because of the heat, but enjoyed talking with a Kenyan anthropologist at the exhibit on human origins. Plus the Kenyan food was pretty good, lamb with coconut paste if I recall.
Posted on: Oct 11, 2014
spocklogic says:
That following Wednesday you speak of must be July 2. It was one of the hottest days of the year on the east coast. Those who remember it would agree I think.
Posted on: Oct 10, 2014
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Heavenly Maiden Scattering Flowers
Heavenly Maiden Scattering Flowers
Flower Plaque (Tiang Tiang Xiang S…
Flower Plaque (Tiang Tiang Xiang …
Leshan Miao Music and Dance Group
Leshan Miao Music and Dance Group
Nine Part Dragon Dance
Nine Part Dragon Dance
Contemporary Kenyan fusion music.
Contemporary Kenyan fusion music.
Ramogi dancer from Western Kenya
Ramogi dancer from Western Kenya
Constructing a Kenyan Pokomo hut.
Constructing a Kenyan Pokomo hut.
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photo by: b93sp