The Grand Song of the Dong Ethnic Group

Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum

The Grand Song of the Dong Ethnic Group

by Live in Guizhou

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The Grand Song of the Dong ethnic group, also known as “Dong Grand Chorus,” is a significant and unique cultural heritage of the Dong people, mainly residing in the Guizhou, Hunan, and Guangxi regions of China. Here’s an overview of this remarkable musical tradition, structured in four parts:

The Dong, originally a subgroup of the Liao folk, have a rich history dating back to the Southern and Northern Dynasties period. The Grand Song is a polyphonic chorus, meaning it involves multiple harmonically related melodic parts sung together. It typically includes three vocal parts – bass, alto, and soprano – but can sometimes feature up to six different choral voices. This form of music is known for its lack of instrumental accompaniment, relying solely on the harmony of voices.

The Grand Song encompasses various themes such as the Lyrical Style, focusing on romantic love; the Morality Style, addressing religious and moral questions; the Narrative Style, covering a range of stories from history to mythology; and the Vocality Style, highlighting the beauty of musical melody. These songs are an essential part of Dong culture, serving as a repository of history, knowledge, and social customs, and are often performed during important community events and rituals.

Recognized as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2009, the Grand Song is a vital part of the Dong community’s cultural identity. It plays a significant role in social gatherings, especially in the drum tower, which is the focal point of a Dong village. The tradition of the Grand Song is deeply ingrained in the Dong society, symbolizing the belief that “songs nourish the soul just like rice nourishes the body”.