‘Lao Qiang’ is roughly translatable as ‘Old Tunes’.
The origin of ‘Lao Qiang’ music is a matter of some dispute, but the most plausible explanation is that it descended from the chants of the boatmen on the Yellow River (lots of “hey’s” and “ho’s”) as they rowed barges laden with grain to the imperial capital at Chang’an during the Western Han dynasty, roughly 2,000 years ago.
‘The Old Tunes Music Band’ (erhu fiddles, big moon lutes and percussion) from central China on the Yellow River.(…) Traditionally they accompany shadow puppet shows – there’s a great sequence of this – and they talk about how they performed the ‘model operas’ during the Cultural Revolution. Their complaint is that they weren’t allowed to change any of the words, which is what they do all the time with their traditional repertoire.
“One of the most poignant and saddening parts of the experience (…) was discovering how difficult it is for these traditions to be passed on to the new generation,’ ‘It was important to capture these musicians and their rituals in some way that may, sadly, outlast the traditions themselves.”
(Man Wu, pipa virtuoso and ambassador of Chinese music. Excerpt from an article for ‘opus3artist’)