Farmer livestreams passion for ballads

YINCHUAN: As it was getting dark, Ma Ruifeng, a 46-year-old farmer, put his cellphone on a stand, steadied the microphone and began to sing. Thumb-ups, flowers and words of praise popped up on the phone screen. He raised his voice and sang even more passionately. He was singing “hua’er” or “flower ballad,” a high-pitched traditional folk song popular in northwest China. It was included on the list of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009. Ma was born in Tongxin county of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, where hua’er is widely appreciated among locals. There are more than 500 hua’er singers from all walks of life in Tongxin. He learned hua’er from his father and grandfather when they were tilling land or herding cattle. “We often say that hua’er grows on our land and flows in our blood,” he said. Ma became a migrant worker at 18, traveling to do manual labor jobs in nearly 10 provinces over the years. Whenever he had spare time after a day’s work, he often sang hua’er to refresh his fellow workers and soothe their homesickness. To hone his singing skills, Ma resorted to the internet and visited professionals. He practiced a lot no matter how busy he was. Deep down he yearned for a stage to show off his skills. At the end of 2018, he registered a livestreaming account. “It was just for fun at the beginning. After work or supper, I usually livestreamed for at least an hour on the construction site or in my dorm, sometimes even asking my workmates to join me. I felt so relaxed when singing and all the fatigue and pain seemed to go away,” he said. – Agencies