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Boatmen on song

By Deng Rui in Chongqing and Zheng Caixiong | China Daily | Updated: 2021-04-03 09:30

Wu (left) and a boatman are on a boat in July, 2008, few days before the Beijing Olympic Games. [Photo by Zhong Guilin/For China Daily]

First female singer

Wu began officially singing the work songs when she was only 15, and she quickly became a well-known leader of the work songs among locals in just two years.

All the leaders of the Chuanjiang work songs used to be men before Wu became the first woman leader.

Wu said what has impressed her most was that her grain boat once attracted many onlookers along the river banks who would stop to watch and listen when all the 13 women crew members on board were singing.

This was about 1958-59 and Wu was the leader of the work songs. "There were only a few women singers in those days," said Wu.

The trackers and the Chuanjiang work songs began to fade out when motorboats gradually replaced traditional wooden vessels in the 1970s, said Wu.

Wu though soon became a well-known figure. She met a retired high school teacher Chen Xudong who worked as a historical and cultural adviser to a local community in 2001. Chen was surprised that Wu could sing the Chuanjiang work songs and chants so well.

Chen then introduced Wu to Tao Peng, a performing artist who also comes from a boatman's family and soon the Chuanjiang work songs were being performed on stage.

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