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Shawm and percussion band from Southern Liaoning

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Shawm and percussion band from Southern Liaoning

Conical shawms with a flared metal bell called suona, derived from Persian zurna or surnay, may have been first attested in East Asia in a mural painting in the Yungang caves in the Northern Wei period (386-534). Around the 15th century, they started to become common among the Han Chinese, and assumed a central placed in celebrations of life-cycle and calendrical events. One of the most admired styles is in northeast China, where this track was recorded during a New Year celebration at Wafangdian, Dalian Municipality, Liaoning Province. Two shawms, accompanied by a free-reed mouth organ (sheng), a drum, a pair of cymbals, and gongs, repeat simple tunes with continuous variation in an excerpt from a suite of short melodies. (During, Levin 2001)

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