Liu Wenwen, the first suona doctor in China: The Chinese suona to the world

460 views · Organized by 小埋 on 2023-05-08

All kinds of Musical Instruments, suona is king. When the suona is mentioned, many people think of the song "Birds Worship the Phoenix". Now, a golden phoenix who "blows" the suona into the international stage has emerged in Jining -- Liu Wenwen, the first doctor of suona in China.

Liu Wenwen, the first suona doctor in China: The Chinese suona to the world

She owes her success to her mother. Her mother, Liu Hongmei, is the 12th generation of suona of Liu family. It is because of her love for traditional culture that she puts all her efforts into her daughter, determined to train her to be the inheritor of suona.

Women break the tradition of playing suona to take the baton of culture

Liu Hongmei's family has been following the suona art since the late Ming and early Qing dynasties. She is the twelfth generation of Liu's suona. "I was born in the countryside, and both my father and grandfather are suona ancestors, which have been passed down to me for hundreds of years. In the past, suona craftsmen in rural areas were all male, and they lived outside to support their families by the red and white weddings, while women stayed at home to handle the housework, which was a fairly fixed family pattern." When Liu Hongmei first learned the suona in her childhood, she seemed to go back to that moment, "I was influenced by my father's teaching and the melody and techniques of the suona were already clear to my heart. Until one day, I stole a suona to play. The first breath made my eyes water, but the second breath made me cry. I knew it was there."

Bravely crossed the red line, Liu Hongmei could not escape her father's censure, but she still did not give up. It was not until I got a chance to play that my father finally approved of me. From then on, Liu Hongmei achieved her own success in the age when suona was almost "ruled" by men.

Later, with her excellent suona skills, Liu Hongmei was selected by several song and dance troupes. After her work, she fell in love with Liu Baobin, the seventh-generation successor of Xiaotong Suona. "By coincidence, we all paid a visit to Ren Tongxiang, the master of the suona in China. Through the master's matchmaking, we formed the family of suona."

Inheriting the family tradition is determined to cultivate her daughter as a talent

When she was young, she worked hard to learn skills, and when she was young, she ran errands to support her family. Liu Hongmei did not have much time to go to school, which made her dream of learning university always in her heart. "The culture is connected, if the knowledge is not rich enough, it will affect the inheritance of the culture. The suona is passed down from our ancestors, we should not only learn the skills, but also integrate, so that the suona culture can develop better." But the regret faded after her daughter was born, Liu said, as she vowed to cultivate her as a new inheritor and promote suona culture.

Starting when Wenwen was three or four years old, Liu Hongmei introduced her to the suona, the most traditional way of practicing early gong. "The early bird catches the worm. Every minute of her life is precious. So since she was 5 years old, she would get up at 4:30 every morning to practice suona with me in children's paradise.

Recalling the first time to let the child learn, Liu Hongmei very distressed, after all, it is not easy for an adult to get up so early every day, let alone a few years old children. However, in order to become a talent, one must endure hardships first, which is the only way to learn the suona. "Our family has spent hundreds of years inheriting suona culture. My generation can't do it or finish it, so we need the next generation to continue to work hard. For this faith, I can only be ruthless to educate and nurture children."

Success comes first. When Wenwen was growing up, there were also some problems, so Liu Hongmei took the child back to the rural hometown, so that she could see how every grain is grown and harvested, and how the farmers are tilling the soil with their backs to the sky. "I told Wenwen that every vegetable we eat is hard won. We should be down-to-earth and cherish it more. The child is also very sensible. Since then, she has never wasted a grain of food or acted in an impetuous manner."

Study around and taste the pain to raise the suona doctor

A few years later, Liu's suona skills improved so rapidly that Liu knew it was time to let her child go out. In order to make greater progress, she and Wenwen frequently travel between Shanghai and Beijing to find a famous teacher guidance. "Studying in other places is very difficult. Because time and money are tight, I always carry a sheet with me and make a bed for my child."

Talking about that period with children running around the road to learn, Liu Hongmei fresh memories. "We had to go to class early in the morning. In order to save the accommodation fee, we had to catch the train all night. We put sheets under the seat of the car and let Wenwen get into bed for a while.

Some knowledge points needed to be practiced and digested by the famous teacher, but they could not find a suitable place. Due to the strong penetration of the suona sound, if she practiced it in a hotel, she might be complained. Liu Hongmei came up with an idea -- to cover Wenwen with a thick quilt, and Wenwen would curl up inside to practice. Liu Hongmei did not open the quilt until she realized that Wenwen had mastered the technique, and Wenwen was already drenched, as if she had been watered from the top.

In this way, with encouragement, company and persistence, suona gradually became an indispensable part of Wenwen's life, until Liu Hongmei and his wife sent their daughter to Shanghai Conservatory of Music and became the first female suona doctor in China.

Tradition and innovation make the "local flavor" suona amazing the world

Liu Hongmei's family is also trying to innovate as they dig deeper into traditional works. In 2017, Liu Wenwen was invited by the famous composer Tan Dun to perform at the Sydney Opera House as a soloist for the New Year Symphony Concert.

"She had to go to Sydney for rehearsals on the second day of the New Year, and on the first day we talked about the performance. Since it was the Year of the Rooster in China, I suggested that various chicken sounds could be incorporated into the work to make it more interesting. Wenwen thought the proposal was feasible, so her father immediately made suitable suona balls, and we practiced them several times at home." According to Liu Hongmei, the advice was adopted and the performance was a triumph, which not only won waves of applause from the audience, but also made Wenwen's amazing performance.

Today, Liu Hongmei still pays close attention to Wenwen's every practice and performance. Every recording Wenwen sends, she analyzes it carefully and takes notes for feedback. In this kind of academic discussion, the mother and daughter make the suona culture increasingly profound.

In the new era, Liu Wenwen, the inheritor of two suona families, stood on a higher stage. For the family and the inheritance of national Musical Instruments, their family feels more responsibility. "Because the traditional suona music is limited, Wenwen will continue to study composition in order to create more and better suona works, so that the suona can completely get rid of the prejudice of the world and become a new folk music that both elegance and custom enjoy." "Liu Hongmei said.

Reference materials and contributors

Involving musical instruments

Suona (pinyin: suǒ nà) is a Chinese double-reed woodwind instrument. Also called Suannai, trumpet, advocacy. The traditional suona is composed of five parts: whistle, air card, intruder, rod and bowl.

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