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a Story about Clapper Talk 1

    2007-05-28 17:32:09     CRIENGLISH.com


With five small bamboo clappers in his left hand, two bigger ones in the other, a clapper talk performer, alone on stage, can deliver an enchanting story made up of several distinct characters with each of the characters being vividly presented. Clappers at hand to control the rhythm, exquisite performing skills in mind to lively present different characters in story, clapper talk performer never fails to be the one and only focus on the stage.


Good public speaker? Fine actor? Excellent singer? Great imitator? Or, more exactly, a clapper talk performer is a master in all of these fields. What's more, they must have the refined powers of creating intimacy between him and his audience, which requires natural and fluent on-the-spot reactions based on decades of performing experience. It's surely not easy to convey emotions like anger, sorrow and joy among different characters in a realistic way too. So, deep observation and widespread experience in interacting with people are believed to be musts for good clapper talk performers.


Among all these excellent talk performers, Li Runjie is renowned as the "father of clapper talk". People believe it was his strong passion for art, as well as his constant diligence, that made the birth of clapper talk possible.


Li Runjie's performance is described as passionate, his presentation extremely clear, fluent as well as vivid. The character he imitated is realistically real. The script he wrote is in catching, natural, rich and funny in language. People believe these excellent qualities in his performance stem from the almost legendary life he has. Liang Houmin is an old friend of the Li family, who is also a senior clapper talk performer.


"Mr. Li was born into a poor farmer's family. He was apprenticed in Tianjin while still a youngster. By the time he reached 18, he was cheated by Japanese into working in coalmine as a miner. But he fled from the mine and began life as a beggar. No doubt, life then was miserable, yet, right at that time, he learned to play the "Shu Lai Bao", a rhythmic story telling to the accompaniment of the clappers, played by beggars to make a living."


Life as a beggar is no doubt hard, but people in hardship sometime get unexpected gains. For Li Runjie, he harvested persistence, strong will, as well a wonderful performing skill from his fellow beggars. That was "Shu Lai Bao", a rhythmic story telling to the accompaniment of the clappers. Based on his skill in cross talk and musical story telling, Li Runjie gradually developed a lively and humorous performing style in about 1950s, thats what is now known as clapper talk.


Here is Liang Houmin again.


"It was not easy to perform, even though you have great skill and talents. The more important thing is a platform, a stage. That was exactly what Li Runjie lacked. However, he took any chance he could to perform. Not allowed to officially perform in theater, Mr. Li waited in the theater, as soon as the performer completed his performance and out for lunch or break, Li began his performance, though there was not much audience remaining. "

From Xi'an to Beijing, then from Beijing to Tianjin, Li Runjie travel around the country to make his beloved clapper talk better received. Finally, he got a chance to perform this unique art on Tianjin People's Radio. Through waves, his clapper talk reached an audience of million and this humorous, vivid art form gained tremendous popularity.


"Every time he performs, the audience just get lost in his story. Everybody was so concentrated that were there a needle falling, it would be clear."


"That time, you turn on TV and you see Mr. Li performs clapper talk, you change a channel, still him. He was so popular."


Now that clapper talk has gained great success, what's going on with this new born art? Will it end up only as a flash in the pan, or will it pass the test of time and become better developed We'll find out next time.

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