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Shanren hosting cross-cultural music exchange this weekend

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The business of being Shanren (山人) — arguably Yunnan's best-known musicians — does not stop. Over the past few years, the band has toured parts of the United States explaining the traditions and concepts behind the province's indigenous music, returning to China only to win one of the country's largest televised musical talent competitions earlier this year. The band members strive, with their performances both inside and outside of China, to be cultural ambassadors.

Out of this motivation to publicize the cultures and traditions of Yunnan's diverse people, band members Sam Debell and A La have organized and will host a cultural exchange on September 11. The activity, held at The Park Bar and Grill, is designed to teach participants about different styles of music and dance. Debell says of the event, "After doing countless workshops overseas explaining different kinds of Yunnan music, it was striking that nobody was or is presenting music in this way back in China."

To help bridge the gap, the Sunday event called 'Folking in The Park' will feature seminars by United States bluegrass band The Ring Road Ramblers, Yi minority band Manhu (蛮虎), and Malu, a salsa dance instructor from Cuba. The idea is for each to present an interactive workshop which introduces their cultural background and then invite the audience to learn simple dances.

Yi minority band Manhu at the Stone Forest
Yi minority band Manhu at the Stone Forest

Everyone will be encouraged to take part, ask questions, and then get down to the business of having fun. Manhu, like their counterparts Shanren are eager for the opportunity, as they have been together for more than ten years, making them senior veterans of the provincial music scene. The former hail from the Stone Forest and Debell describes them thusly:

In my opinion Manhu are the hottest band in Yunnan today when it comes to international prospects. They are authentic but creative, and dedicated to presenting their Sani music in a modern context. It amazes me that a band could get this good and still have nobody know about them.

'Folking in The Park' begins at 2pm on Sunday. In addition to offering a unique opportunity to bring the local and foreign communities toward a closer understanding, the day will also feature food and drink stalls, all in the cozy confines of Kunming's Green Lake Park. The educational portion of the day will lead into live performances by each band and, perhaps, a cross-cultural hoedown to cap it all off. Admission is free to all.

American bluegrass band The Ring Road Ramblers
American bluegrass band The Ring Road Ramblers

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