Architecture Is Art Festival 2019: Experimenting the extinct sounds.Blind Musician Dou Wun

Zuni Icosahedron

Presented and Produced  27-9-2019

Architecture Is Art Festival 2019

Experimenting the extinct sounds.Blind Musician

Dou Wun

Rotten Big Ass

Contemporary stage technology revealing the

extinct song-art of brothels

Press Release


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

became extinct.

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

since disappeared.  

Bell Yung

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.

Creative Team

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


Ticketing $200, $100

Architecture Is Art Festival 2019

Tickets are available NOW on PopTicket and URBTIX.

Program inquiry:852-2566 9696


Media Inquiries: Mr. Luka Wong

Tel: 852-2893 8704 | Mobile︰852-6301 6569

Fax: 852-2838 7527 | Email︰


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