Just after checking into our hotel after coming back from the Tiger Leaping Gorge hike, the receptionist advised us to see the Naxi orchestra in the evening. It proved a great advice. When we settled on the first row, the musicians were not in yet, which gave us time to study the little booklet we had been given as our ticket, and which contained some background explanation on the Naxi orchestra. Furthermore, it included an overview of its history with several black and white pictures depicting the orchestra in old days. Above the stage, we saw more black and white pictures, of deceased musicians of the orchestra. Most pictures showed white, long-bearded old men with or without their instruments.
Our biggest surprise of the evening came when the Naxi orchestra entered the colourful stage. In brilliant coloured long-robed dresses, old, long-bearded musicians took to the stage in a dignified way. The musicians we saw in front of our eyes were exactly the kind of men we had seen on the pictures just before! Strangely enough, there were only young, but no old women. One of them announced the first song, explaining - fortunately also in English! - what the song was about. Explaining, too, that what we were about to hear was unique: ancient Chinese and Naxi music that had survived ages, and the Cultural Revolution. Some of the ancient instruments we saw had actually been buried to hide them from the authorities. And then, the music started. For the next hour and a half, we heard fantastic music and singing.
One of the women sang an old Tibetan love song, written by the famous 6th Dalai Lama; this was a particularly touching song that dug deep into our souls by the mere, very pure, sound of it. In general, it was amazing to see this Naxi orchestra perform complicated songs without a director and without the music in front of them - as it turned out, a kind of director was sitting in the back of the stage, using a set of small gong chimes to apparently guide the others. Even though the audience was not always behaving as controlled as you would expect in other countries, the evening was very well spent and the music continued in our heads as we walked out when the show was over.
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