Family songs and folk songs of Tu Ethnic Group

The music of the Tu nationality is mainly folk songs. According to the difference of scenes, the folk songs are divided into family songs, field songs and children’s songs, etc.

The family songs are also called as “banquet songs”, including paeans, dialogue songs and wedding songs, etc.

Paeans are the songs used by the hosts and guests to praise each other when the Tus people entertain honored guests. For example, the hosts praise the guests that “their prestige is as high as the blue sky, and their loving-kindness is as deep as the sea”, when the guests praise the hosts, the ordinary tableware is said as gold cups and jade bowls, the ordinary foods are said as delicacies from land and sea, the main objective is to praise the solicitous hospitality of the hosts. Generally, three paragraphs make up one paean, the length of each paragraph is different. Generally, the first two paragraphs are written by the means of analogy, and the last one is the actual meaning. Generally, two people, one as the main singer, and the other accompanies him/her, sing the paeans. The tunes of paeans are in great variety, the melodies are tender and beautiful, the language is flowery, and the analogy is lively and vivid. 

The dialogue songs are also called as songs in antiphonal style. The singers question each other, communicate life knowledge and experiences by the form of antiphonal singing. The contents are in a great variety, range from astronomy to geography, history, politics, religious belief, production and life, local conditions and customs, and so on. The form is generally three questions plus three answers, the main melody is similar as paean, it uses brief words and sentences to answer the questions put forward by the other party. For example, “Heni” is a dialogue song that questions and teaches the production and life knowledge of animal husbandry, such as the birth, life habits and characteristics and physiological structure of sheep, and how to kill sheep, how to entertain guests with mutton, and so on.

Wedding songs are those that are sung on wedding ceremony. The words and tune of songs are specially fixed, the singers and scenes are strictly provided. Generally, they are divided into two parts: escorting the bride and getting married.

The opposite form of “family songs” is the “field songs”. The “family song” is “Hua’r”, and is also called as “folk song” and “youth”, some people also call it as “outdoor song”. To sing “Hua’r” is one of the main activity forms in the cultural life of the Tu nationality. The men and women, old and young all like singing it, and everybody knows how to sing it. On the traditional “Hua’r” party of the Tu nationality, the Tus folk singers often sing antiphonally and unceasingly. Most of the singers are able to strike the chord of feelings by the scene, impromptu create words of song, sing in literature and answer fluently. 

“Hua’r” belongs to love songs, the main contents are to talk love, describe the mutual love feelings of young boys and girls. So it is seen as the media and bridge of love. According to the habit of the Tu nationality, “Hua’r” can only be sung on mountain or in the outer field, and cannot be heard by the relatives. If the parents and full brothers and sisters are on the scene, it cannot be sung, otherwise it is seen as impoliteness and the singer will be condemned. The tunes mainly include Good Hua’r ling, Galianshou ling, Liangliang’r Shanglanglai and YangLiu Sisters, etc. All of them are short and pithy, vivid and lively. For example: 

The cherry is delicious but the tree is difficult to plant, 
We need to build a trellis for white grape; 
I love you but I am too shy to tell you, 
The young people want to chat with each other.

The highest is the sky and the deepest is the sea, 
The most beautiful is the dews of pistil, 
The most fragrant is musk and the sweetest is honey, 
The best thing is the husband and wife accompany each other.