Architecture Is Art Festival 2019: Experimenting the extinct sounds．Blind Musician Dou Wun
Presented and Produced 27-9-2019
Architecture Is Art Festival 2019
Experimenting the extinct sounds．Blind Musician
Rotten Big Ass
Contemporary stage technology revealing the
extinct song-art of brothels
The shock-and-awe, created by the most advanced stage space, sound effects
integrated with the almost forgotten Banyan tempo system, can only be felt
by the audience on the spot.
The Banyan tempo once enjoyed wide popularity in the brothels of
Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao. Blind songsters like Dou Wun were called
to perform in brothels to entertain the prostitutes and their guests. Among
them, the most popular and unique music genre is Banyan, because it is
performed only in brothels, nowhere else. After 1935, when Hong Kong issued a
ban on prostitution, traditional public brothels disappeared, and Banyan
Rotten Big Ass, also known as Quarrels between Two Loukais, is one of the
recordings made by Professor Bell Yung for Dou Wun’s live performance in
1975. Loukai is a term which refers to the relationship between prostitutes and
their clients. The song-story, sung in a first-person narrative, is about an elderly
client nicknamed Rotten Big Ass who came to look for his prostitute Sui Choi,
at a time when his wealthy days were behind him and he felt neglected.
The performance features the interaction of the original recording of Dou
Wun’s song-art with a new version re-interpreted by Hong Kong
contemporary composer Nerve (Steve Hui), a unique chance to relive the
solemn and playful work of Dou Wun.
About Dou Wun
Dou Wun (1910-1979) is considered the last master of Deishui Naamyam
(southern tone) in Hong Kong. In the 1950s, he performed naamyam,
sometimes an impromptu with references to currentaffairs, at Radio Television
Hong Kong (RTHK). In 1972, Dou’s programme was put to a halt alongside the
decline of other traditional cultural programmes at RTHK. The audience took
delight in his artistry, appreciating the way he played the paiban with his left
hand and guzheng with his right, whilst singing simultaneously.
In 1974, the Goethe-Institut invited Dou to perform Sorrow Of The Traveller,
Mourning for My Lady, etc. In 1975, Bell Yung, Emeritus Professor of Music at
the University of Pittsburgh, recorded 16 numbers of Dou’s naamyam singing
at a teahouse. Dou also performed at the Hong Kong City Hall and the Chinese
University of Hong Kong. Since Dou died in 1979, deishui naamyam has
become a legend.
The style of narrative song called Banyan was performed exclusively in the
brothels of Hong Kong a century ago, where blind singers were hired to
entertain the prostitutes and their “johns” with risqué stories. Using slangy,
racy, and sometimes lewd expressions, many of which were unacceptable in
mainstream society, these songs disappeared after Hong Kong banned
brothels in 1935. In his youth the blind singer Dou Wun (1910-1979) made a
good living by singing in brothels, as well as in opium dens and teahouses.
Professor Bell Yung met Dou and recorded 40+ hours of his singing in 1975,
including two Banyan songs, one of which is presented here. You can enjoy
both the original historical recording and a version as interpreted by Zuni
The Lovers’ Squabble, also called Rotten Big Ass after the name of the
protagonist, is his first person telling of himself as down on his luck after
spending all his fortune on a prostitute. He seeks out this former lover to
borrow some money but ends up being beaten up by her thuggish new lover.
Along the way he encounters various characters including Big Uncle Cook, a
boat woman, a courtesan singer on the Pearl River, and Auntie Fat Mama, as
well as his former lover and the thug. Dou shows off his many vocal colors,
regional accents, and varied vocabulary, as well as Banyan’s lively melody and
the bowed string instrument with which he accompanies himself, while
portraying characters and a tragic-comic slice of life from a world that has long
Bell Yung, an ethnomusicologist specializing in China, is Emeritus Professor of
Music at the University of Pittsburgh where he retired in 2012; in 2017 he was
appointed as an Affiliate Professor of Music at the University of Washington.
He has also taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
University, University of California at Davis, and Cornell University, and is a
recipient of research awards from Guggenheim, Ford, Mellon, National
Endowment of the Humanities, and others. He has published twelve books
and over 50 articles in journals and in edited volumes; in addition he produced
seven sets of CDs and one set of DVD of the Cantonese Narrative song called
Nanyin, based upon fieldwork material he collected in Hong Kong in 1975.
Bell Yung’s family is from Wuxi, China. Born in Shanghai in 1941, he grew up in
Hong Kong and graduated from the high school Wah Yan College Kowloon. In
1960 he went to the U.S. for higher education, receiving a B.Sc. degree in
Engineering Physics from the University of California in Berkeley, a Ph.D. in
Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in Music
from Harvard University. In 2012 he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate
degree by the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Artistic Advisor Bell Yung
Director & Designer Mathias Woo
Music Steve Hui
Video Dan Fong
Performer David Yeung
14-16/11 , 22-23/11 8:00pm 17/11 4:00pm
Venue : STUDIO THEATRE, HONG KONG CULTURAL CENTRE
Ticketing $200, $100
Architecture Is Art Festival 2019
Tickets are available NOW on PopTicket and URBTIX.
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