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World On Your Street: The Global Music Challenge

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Musician: Ling Lee

Location: Aberdeen

Instruments: Chinese harp

Music: Traditional Chinese

HOW I CAME TO THIS MUSIC          WHERE I PLAY          A FAVOURITE SONG Click here for Hande Domac's storyClick here for Mosi Conde's storyClick here for Rachel McLeod's story


Listen  Listen (2.10) to 'Lotus Above the Water' performed by Ling Lee.

Listen  Listen (1.55) to 'Beautiful Shandandan' a traditional song from the Shanxi province of China, performed by Ling Lee.

Listen  Listen (1.20) to Ling Lee speaking through interpreter Hermia Donaldson.

"When learning the Chinese harp I'd practice for six to eight hours each day. Afterwards I'd be overwhelmed with tiredness but it's a pleasurable feeling."

How I came to this music

I was born in Guangzhou formerly known as 'Canton'. Our house was always filled with music since my father was an amateur musician and from a very young age I can remember him bringing home friends who were professional musicians. Under the influence of my father I learned to love all kinds of music from western classical to traditional Chinese. However, I did not start to learn the Chinese harp until the age of 16. My father taught me for a little while and then he got me a teacher who was one of his best friends. He taught me for nearly two years before I went to college to study music.

The wonder of the Chinese harp is that as soon as you touch the strings you fall in love with it. Its roots go back two and a half thousand years and originated from northern China. The first instruments were quite basic with only12 strings. Nowadays the harp's popularity has spread to most parts of China and particularly to the bigger cities like Beijing and Shanghai. It has evolved over time and the modern harp can have up to 21 strings. To me, it is like playing a piano, the instrument has great versatility.

At the age of 18, I left secondary school and went to study at Guangzhou Music College. After graduation from the College I worked in the Guangdong Province Research Institute to carry out research into the history of Chinese music.

Ling Lee

I taught the harp to young children and adults. Today it is undoubtedly China's most popular instrument. Many parents want their children to learn and thanks to rising living standards more people are able to buy one. The reason that people like the harp is that it is easy to play. You can play a wide variety of songs and it suits all ages. I have noticed that retired people in China are now wanting to learn. They are the fastest growing age group wishing to get lessons so that they can play in their leisure time. I find it fascinating that traditionally it has been a female instrument but now that is changing and more men are taking up the harp.

Western people laugh when I tell them that as a young girl much of the inspiration to play the harp came from Chinese soap operas made in Hong Kong and screened in China. In these TV soaps, there would always be a beautiful woman in traditional dress skillfully playing the Chinese harp. Many young women in China wanted to emulate this image of beauty and poise.

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