Beijing has been the world’s focus of attention for international events in 2008: the Olympic Games in August, and the Paralympic Games in September. From October 3rd to 8th, Beijing will host the 2008 World Folk Song Festival, featuring performers from 25 different countries and 13 Chinese provinces.
The six-day extravaganza will be held at Beijing’s colossal National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), a 600,000 sq. ft. facility nicknamed “The Egg”. A reflective pool in front of the majestic dome gives the illusion of a gigantic egg suspended in mid air. For one week, the NCPA will echo with songs from around the world and will introduce Chinese audiences to some of the finest folk music and traditions from around the world. Sones de Mexico Ensemble will perform live in concert in the National Centre for the Performing Arts Theatre on Monday, October 6th at 2:00pm. The group will give a performance presentation in the NCPA Conference Hall on Tuesday, October 7th, at 3:00pm.
Sones de Mexico Ensemble, a Mexican independent folk group and arts organization from Chicago, whose 2007 album “Esta Tierra es Tuya (This Land Is Your Land)” garnered both GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY nominations last year, received an unsolicited invitation from the Festival selection committee in late May.
Juan Dies, a co-founder of the group, said “I was just as surprised as anyone else that we would have been selected, especially when we discovered that we were the only group attending from the United States.”
Besides their “norteno” homage to Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”, the group is mainly known for preserving a tradition of folk songs collectively known as “son”, from Mexico’s diverse cultural regions, performing them with a preservationist’s care on a collection of over 70 acoustic instruments.
In an interview for China Radio International, Chen Ziming, an expert on folk music and also a professor in the Central Conservatory of Music, said that the festival is a good chance to broaden people’s understanding of world folk music and to change the long-time focus solely on European music.
When asked about his selection criteria, Ma Wenjie, the organizing committee’s liaison to the American continent, spoke of “Yuan Fen”, a “predestined affinity”. He explained, “We use this word to describe two people who never know each other, and once for a very coincident opportunity they meet each other, then they become very good friends and do great things together.” Mr. Ma Wenjie found Sones de Mexico Ensemble on the Internet, and he felt a connection.
In response, Juan Dies said “I think we may write a new song when we meet and call it ‘Yuan Fen’.”
ABOUT SONES DE MEXICO ENSEMBLE CHICAGO: Sones de Mexico Ensemble Chicago is a premier folk music ensemble specializing in Mexican “son”, including the regional styles of “huapango”, “gustos”, “chilenas”,”son jarocho”, and more. The group formed in 1994 to keep the tradition of Mexican “son” alive in its many regional forms. As a performer and recording artist, the ensemble has developed and popularized many original arrangements of Mexican traditional songs. Some of its original work has experimented cross-culturally with symphonic, Irish, folk, C&W, jazz, and rock music, though never abandoning its roots in Mexican “son”. The ensemble is also committed to teaching and has a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to music education. All band members reach out to young and old with award-winning educational programs nationwide.