This CD was originally released in 1997, but is still widely
available on the internet. It was one of the first discs of
Naxi music made available in the Western hemisphere - "the
first quality CD recording of an authentic Naxi ensemble",
as the Nimbus blurb modestly puts it. It is also available as
disc 2 of a Nimbus double CD (NI 7064-5), released in 2000,
and coupled with 'Buddhist Music of Tianjin'.
The Naxi (pronounced roughly nah-shee) are an ethnic minority
from the Himalayan foothills of south-western China, near Lijiang
City - hence the title of the CD. Their culture in general,
and music in particular, are a mixture of indigenous, Tibetan
and Chinese Han elements. Most of the music on this CD is of
a type known as Dongjing, adapted from Han traditions, and nowadays
almost exclusively secular. It is melodically pentatonic and
The first ten tracks are all popular Dongjing pieces still regularly
performed today, drawn from a small repertory of accompanied
songs and instrumental pieces. The song texts are traditional,
performed in a highly restrained, almost wordless-sounding manner,
like a gentle chant, that blends very well with the instruments.
In all the Dongjing music there is a mixture of bowed and plucked
string instruments, such as the pipa, sugudu, zheng and erhu;
woodwind, such as the dizi and bobo; and percussion - drums
and wooden blocks on the one hand and gongs, cymbals and bells
on the other.
As a rule, the pieces are musically straightforward, fairly
slow-moving, repetitive, self-similar and with a semi-improvised
feel. The purely instrumental pieces more or less just keep
going until they suddenly fizzle out, whereas the accompanied
songs begin in free rhythm and finish with a percussion coda.
At the same time, however, the music is extremely evocative
- by far the cheapest and most environmentally friendly way
for foreigners to travel to China! - and hypnotic nearly to
the point of hallucinogenic: repeated audition may lead to addiction!
The last three tracks are solo pieces for the leizi bili, an
indigenous recorder, performed by Association member Wang Chaoxin.
These three simple folk tunes are typically played to accompany
ceremonial circle dancing.
This disc was recorded during a first visit to the UK by the
Dayan Ancient Music Association in 1995. The Association, named
after members' home town, perform with sparkle and commitment.
The recording is realistic and well balanced, sound quality
good. The CD booklet is nicely laid out and the essay on Lijiang's
music traditions by Helen Rees informative and interesting.
Photos and biographical notes on all performers - the oldest
of whom was 82 at the time of recording! - are icing on the
Overall, Naxi music, very different from the Western art or
folk heritage, may prove a little too exotic for many. Yet for
the stay-at-home traveller undaunted by different scales, the
chance to dip into Naxi culture for less than the cost of a
typical tourist gewgaw may be hard to resist - and this is the
disc to have.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk