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Chinese tones

Updated: 2013-04-07 14:49
By Li Aoxue (China Daily)

Chinese tones

Ruth Njeri has developed an interest in traditional Chinese singing and painting. Photos Provided to China Daily

Her interest sparked by Mandarin classes at a Confucius institute in Nairobi, Ruth Njeri found her way to a singing appearance on one of China's most popular TV shows. Li Aoxue sits down for the whole story.

Ruth Njeri's first taste of public singing came at the age of 6 as leader of a children's choir in her homeland Kenya. It was a small taste of what was to come. The young Njeri would go on to become one of the first Africans to sing on stage at China Central Television's annual Spring Festival gala show, chunwan.

"I love singing as it brings happiness when I perform," Njeri says. "But to sing on the stage at chunwan could become my lifetime memory as I know not too many people can have the opportunity."

Chunwan began in 1983 and has become an event watched by families across the country on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year. "It has become quite internationalized year by year - this year they even had Celine Dion," Njeri says.

She recalls the event being packed with performers - many of whom became her friends - and having the atmosphere of a traditional festival.

"I know Spring Festival is one of the most important festivals in China, and no matter how far people live away from their hometown, they go back to reunite with their family."

Families celebrate holidays in much the same way in Kenya, says Njeri, whose hometown is Nairobi.

"We have about 50 people for the celebration," she says.

Njeri, 27, is in the second year of a postgraduate degree in international relations at Tianjin Normal University.

She arrived in China in June 2006, after coming first in a Chinese government-organized language competition in Kenya called Hanyuqiao. Her reward was funding from the Chinese government to study in Tianjin.

"We know little about this country compared with Western countries such as the US and UK, so China was very mysterious to me.

"I found many Chinese enterprises were established in Kenya, and some traditional Chinese hospitals have begun to operate," she says.

She pursued her interest in China by taking Mandarin classes at the Confucius Institute in Nairobi.

Chinese tones

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