Hakka Folk Songs
Hakka singing is referred to as “Nine Accents and Eighteen Melodies”, because of the great variety of Hakka songs. The nine accents include the Hailu, Szihsian, Raoping, Lufeng, Meihsian, Songkou, Guangdong, Guangnan, and Guangxi accents. The eighteen melodies are the pingban, shangezi, laoshange (or nanfengdiao), siliange, bingzige, shibamo, jianjianhua (or shi’eryue guren), chuyi zhao, taohuakai, shangshancaicha, guanziren, naowugeng, songjinchai, dahaitang, kuliniang, xishoujin, maijiu (or yaojiu), taohua guodu (or chengchuange), and xiuxiangbao melodies.
Traditionally, Hakka folk song has a history of over one thousand years. Their music initially consisted of droning tunes hummed to release their feelings. Later, this would be accompanied with the sounds of boat sculling, shoulder poles, chopping trees, or walking to express emotions, to drum up courage, or to communicate with people on the other side of a river or up on a mountain. These gradually took on melodies. Consequently, Hakka songs reflect life-they are interesting and some are love songs. The mountain songs that have been passed down in Taiwan can be divided into three types-laoshange, shangezi, and pingban. The singer of a song can arrange or create lyrics to any song as he sees fit. The special thing about the xiaodiao, like the taohuakai, siliange, and shi’eryue guren, is that the tune and lyrics are memorized and are not altered. They have permanent lyrics and music, so it is easier to record them using modern day sheet music.
Hakka mountain songs
The majority of Hakka mountain songs have seven characters per stanza. Particular emphasis is placed on tonal patterns and rhyme. The first, second, and fourth lines of most songs end in either a first or second tone, while that of the third line is either a third or fourth tone. Rules regarding the other lines are not as strict.
One of the most unique characteristics of Hakka folk songs is that they are frequently impromptu in nature whether sung by an individual or sung in duet. Not only are these ad lib pieces filled with wonderful metaphors and profound wisdom, they adhere to the rules of tone!
One story describes a woman who was skilled at singing mountain songs by the name of Liu San Mei. She lived in Mei County, Guangdong. People from far and near came to ask her to teach them. One day, a scholar rode a boat filled with mountain songbooks so as to compete with her.
When the boat arrived in Songkou, San Mei just happened to be there washing clothes on the riverbank. Not knowing who she was, the scholar asked her, “Excuse me, do you know where San Mei lives?” San Mei asked him what it was he wanted. He replied, “I’ve heard that San Mei is a talented singer. I’d like to have a contest with her.” San Mei asked him, “How many mountain songs did you bring?” The scholar answered, “My boat is bursting at the seams with songbooks!” Laughing to herself, San Mei stopped and lifted her voice in song.
Liu San Mei washing clothes in the river,
Asked the gentleman from where he had come
Mountain songs have been sung through the ages
Who in the world carries them in a boat
Only then did the scholar know that he was talking to Liu San Mei. She was such a skilled speaker that he just got back in his boat and left.
The impromptu nature of mountain songs is what makes them so interesting. It is fascinating to watch them sing to each other in the mountains or by a river, while picking tea leaves, planting rice, or harvesting rice!
Extracted from http://edu.ocac.gov.tw/lang/hakka/english/c/c3b.htm
more on Hakka folksongs
Hakka mountain song – was never really a accepted as a mainstream culture among the educated elite of the traditional Hakka. For being steeped in the Confucian traditional moral and ethics, they would frown upon the expression of love in the crude and uncultured prose sang in duet among the young men and maidens. However among the common folks, the songs were a lively part of the Hakka folk culture.
There was many a tale of this smart & quick-witted maiden who in a song duel was no match for the scholar.
In the 1960/s – while the hills in the west were alive with the Sound of Music from Julie, out on the highlands to the east, it was reverberating with the mountain folk songs of Third Sister Liu – 刘三姐- Liu Sanjie.
This hit musical movie from Communist China, which was filmed in the scenic Guilin - 桂林 , Yunan Province – 云南省- was adapted from a Hakka folklore. Liu Sanjie used her singing talent – in the songs she sung to defy the oppressive bourgeois landlord. It was also a love story – Liu San Jie, found her prince charming that could match her singing talent during the annual Song Festival up on the mountain.
Excerpt taken from i came i saw i come i see on mountain folk song 客家山 歌
small portion from the movie