Red Lantern Folk Ensemble

‘Red Lantern Folk Ensemble’ (China) represents culture of Lisu ethnic group. Lisu is a small minority group with a population of about 635,000 in China. They reside mainly in the Nujiang district of Yunnan Province. The Lisu people inhabit mountainous areas that are largely covered with dense forests. Lisu women are notable for their brightly colored dress.

Before Christianity was introduced to Lisu people, they were animists, sacrifices being offered to the spirits of the mountains. Beginning in the early 20th century, many Lisu people converted to Christianity. The missionaries learned the situation of Lisu culture, so they could rapidly spread Christianity. They used various kind of methods, including teaching hymns. Music is a vital element in the lives of the Lisus and music is performed in family gatherings, festivals, weddings, funerals, when they go hunting, herding, planting, harvesting, and even in resolving conflicts. According to the Lisu sayings, one can’t live without songs, just like one can’t live without salt. Baishi, or Baishibai, or Mountain Songs a form of folk singing. The literal translation is «free to say, free to sing». Singers of Baishibai often form a line and dance to the rhythm while putting their arms on the shoulders of each other. It is sung around holidays, family gatherings, or just when doing everyday chores.

Baishibai often happen out-of- door and improvisationally. There is a lead singer and the crowd is split into two or three parts harmony. Throat vibrato is used frequently and is quite characteristic in Baishibai.