It was in Santiago South America that I was first introduced to the Erhu. Ana and I had been exploring the streets of Santiago, Santiago was not new to Ana, but was an exciting new experience for me. The architecture that dated back over a hundred years was mesmerizing, there were elements of many pre colonial countries still in existence and their buildings beautifully presented and maintained. Some had seen the brunt of earthquake damage as did many normal buildings.
Every street and every corner led to a new adventure, the streets were alive with the vibrancy of the people and culture, food stalls dotted the footpaths with their enticing aromas, street buskers added to the flamboyancy of the streets, buskers who portrayed statues, motionless until approached, street pavement artists with their beautiful paintings depicting various scenes, magicians to enthrall the crowds, and in between were street stall holders, selling a vast array of goods from decorative jewelry to shirts and sunglasses. Every street giving off a carnival atmosphere. Interposed were dancers in National Chilean costumes giving demonstrations of the National dance The Cueca.
We entered one street that was set back from the main thoroughfare, here I could hear the strains of music that did not seem to be the normal mixture of Chilean music, this music had more of a classical sound to it, or an Asian sound to it, it reminded me a little of the music I recall in Vietnam in 1970. We continued on towards the origins of this incredible music, and came across a young Chilean teenager playing a very unusual instrument, the music he made was absolutely beautiful, captivated I watched as he played this two stringed instrument and produced the most hypnotic sounds that entranced the mind.
After the young Maestro finished his music, I had questions to ask, and through my interpreter wife Ana, we found out the name of the instrument, it was a Chinese Erhu, the young player had been taught it at one of the musical academy’s in Santiago. His busking was his income and we bought one of his CD’s and congratulated him on his performance. From that moment on it became my desire to obtain an Erhu and endeavour to learn. Back in Australia through our many travels I realised that obtaining this instrument was no easy task, the music stores had never heard of the instrument, it is only now that I have learnt it is called the Chinese Violin in Western countries but still where to obtain one was still a problem.
Last week we visited Adelaide in South Australia for a few days, it was there in Chinatown that I saw my beloved Erhu, at a small stall were two young Chinese girls selling Chinese musical instruments, and they also demonstrated playing the instruments. We purchased the Erhu and also received some papers in respect to having lessons on the Erhu by the noted player Zhao Liang. Having come this far in my quest for the Erhu there was no question in not taking up lessons to learn to play this exquisite instrument, the only problem is we live about four hour away from Adelaide; however we have plans to continue with the instrument, but need to work out a lesson itinerary to accommodate travel.
I have included a video clip of the Erhu being played by a professional, however I assure my readers I have no aspirations to reach the standards of the Masters of the Erhu, they are truly the Masters. If I can make some sounds and enjoy the instrument then it has all been worthwhile. Please listen to the music and I am sure you will find the hauntingly beautiful music as captivating as we did.