Sokendai Review of Cultural and Social Studies


Contextual Change of Antiphonal Singing
in Tai Society in China

ITO Satoru

(The Graduate University for Advanced Studies,
School of Cultural and Social Studies, Department of Regional Studies)

Key words:

Dehong Tai, antiphonal singing, singing performer, cooperativity of singing

In the past, improvised antiphonal songs could be heard at any time in a variety of life situations in the Dehong Tai (Dai) society. People had spontaneously learned the art of singing in the same way as they had learned how to do things around the house or to farm in their social life. At the present day, however, it is difficult to learn the art of antiphonal song for the younger generation who experienced the Cultural Revolution and rapid modernization, and this antiphonal singing is beginning to be considered as a special technique. In recent years, when a grand wedding or religious ritual is held, the villagers have invited professional singers to do the performance and have recorded their improvised antiphonal songs by means of VCD or DVD. The tradition of improvisational antiphonal singing, once regarded as at risk of extinction, has thus been revived in local social contexts in conjunction with the appearances of the professional singers.

In this study tracing the history of revived singing and the style of the art, I focus on the recent popularity of the works of professional singers and their antiphonal song in Tai society. I discuss how professional singers acquire social status and consider the enchanting features of these songs and their new social role.