Mon, Sep 10, 2012 - Page 12 News List

Nanguan’s reluctant innovator

Wang Xinxin, lauded as one of the foremost practitioners of nanguan music, is receiving international recognition with concert and lecture tour of Europe

By Ian Bartholomew  /  Staff reporter

Wang sees herself very much as an innovator, and sees plenty of potential for innovation from within the Chinese tradition, a refreshing change from the monotonous refrain about East-West fusion that dominates Taiwan’s arts establishment and seems to be the key to government funding.

Still, Wang has not completely escaped the need to conform to contemporary cultural dogma, and has ventured into collaborations with multimedia. As a professional company, the demand for visual stimulation is ineluctable. Costumes, projected backgrounds, stage sets and narrative links have all been included in some of Wang’s shows. “What people don’t always understand is that things that seem simple, such as a group of musicians playing music in a bare performance space, takes years of dedication and also costs money,” she said.

Although Wang has proved reasonably successful in accessing the limited government funds and somewhat more generous corporate sponsorship available, there is a sense of regret that nanguan needs to become such a circus. Wang has established monthly small venue performances at her studio and at the Taipei’s Dadaocheng Theater (大稻埕戲苑), where her stripped down style of nanguan is given a regular airing.

Wang’s unwavering focus on the more abstruse appeal of music over showy oriental exoticism has kept the Xinxin Nanguan Ensemble small, but it has won considerable respect from curators of international arts festivals, particularly in Europe. On her current tour, Wang will speak at the Sorbonne in Paris (Sept. 14) and at the Maison des Cultures du Monde (Sept. 15) about preserving cultural traditions in a contemporary context, and perform at the Orient Museum in Lisbon (Sept. 17), the Musee Guimet in Paris(Sept. 25) and the French Senate House in Paris (Sept. 26).

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