November 23, 2007, 12:35 pm
Filed under: Instrumental



I’m sure, Gentle Reader, that you’ve now realized my method of surveying Chinese Opera is based on a tour of the different record companies in addition to the different styles. Columbia records was perhaps the most prolific label recording in China, starting just after the turn of the century through the end of the 78 era. Cantonese, Peiping, Teochew and other types of opera were all recorded by Columbia and many of the later records from the late 30’s and 40’s have a much more “westernized” sound than the music posted on this blog. These more modern sounding records are some of my least favorite so I always approach Columbia records with caution!

Traditional Chinese Operas often included instrumental sections, either to entertain between acts or fill time during costumes changes, etc. Instrumentals were rarely recorded, presumably because the opera genre is far more oriented toward the vocalists and the music almost seems to be secondary. Nonetheless, there is a vibrant offshoot of opera music known as “Silk and Bamboo” (Silk referring to strings and Bamboo to woodwinds). This music is usually instrumental and is played in public by amateurs in an informal setting such as a tea house, not unlike Irish pub music sessions. There is still a lively Silk and Bamboo scene today in Shanghai.

This rousing tune is played on the gaohu (similar to erhu), yehu (two string instrument with coconut sound-box, sounds like viola), qin qing (banjo-like instrument.)

(UPDATE: It just occurred to me that this is the well known tune “Rain Dropping on Banana Tree”…I hadn’t noticed because it’s so much faster than the older version I’m familiar with…the older version can be heard on the Rounder cd of the same name.)

>COLUMBIA 49937b


4 Comments so far
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Hey man – sounds as lovely as everything else you’ve posted here. By chance, did you hear NPR’s “Erhu 101” story yesterday?
The catchy tag line? “It sounds almost like a violin — but not quite.” I think not! At least, not the erhu recordings you have here . .. . this thing is a different beast.

Comment by Scott

Just beautiful.

Comment by NoNameInTheStreet

Just discovered this website, utterly fantastic!

Yes it is “Rain Dropping on Banana Tree” aka Rain Dropping on Banana Leaves, Raindrops Beating the Banana Leaves etc. In Chinese:

yǔ dǎ bā jiāo 雨打芭蕉

I can just about make out two of the musician’s names on the label:
Lǚ Wénchéng 吕文成, who I guess would be the gaohu (high-pitched fiddle) player, and
Hé Dàshǎ 何大傻.

Comment by huqinblog

Where did the MP3s go?

Comment by David B.

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