The ‘Old Tunes Music Band’, farmers from Shaanxi Province, perform a musical tradition older than 2000 years – originally serving the purpose of accompaniment for their shadow-puppet shows – then, the only entertainment in rural China.
Despite the low status of artists and the small payment for their performances (in bags of rice), the “Old Tunes Music” thrived for generations as a part of the family heritage. This continuity was put at great risk during the Cultural Revolution. Although the musicians showed enthusiasm about communism and the future depicted by Chairman Mao, when asked by the Red Guards to destroy the traditional scripts they found themselves incapable of fulfilling the request.
In 2001, the musicians attracted the interest of Mr. Dang who discovered their great potential as authentic performers and he decided to transform ‘Old Tunes Music’ into a professional stage act.
‘Old Tunes Music’ became celebrities in their home–village and a part of the Chinese government’s campaign for strengthening the ‘National Cultural Soft Power’.
They performed for the Chinese President and toured America, Australia and Europe. Two of the band-members have received the status of being ‘Intangible Chinese Cultural Heritage’.
The name Shaanxi means “The Land West of Shan”.
Shǎn was the ancient name for the narrow mountain pass where the Yellow River flows from the Loess Plateau down to the North China Plain.
Shaanxi is considered one of the cradles of Chinese civilization. Thirteen feudal dynasties established their capitals in the province during a span of more than 1,100 years, from the Zhou Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty.
The province’s principal city and current capital, Xi’an, is one of the four great ancient capitals of China and is the eastern terminus of the Silk Road, which leads to Europe, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa.
The Zhang Family Band – musicians presented in the film ‘Made in Old China’ – are based in a village near the Huashan mountains just east of Xi’an. By the standards of wealthier southern China, the area is poor, dry and coarse.