Music is the beautiful sound that people produce to express their emotions. Every country or ethnic group has its own unique music culture. For the Hakkas it’s not any different. The most unique form of music among the Hakka people is the Hakka folk song. As to instrumental music, the most representative form of music is the Eight Notes of the Hakka music. This kind of music plays a very important role in the lives of the Hakka people. In today’s program, we will learn about the Eight Hakka Notes.
Today’s Hakka lesson at the end of the program will teach you some of the greetings that you will use in everyday life.
Before we introduce the Eight Notes of Hakka music, let’s learn what the notes represent. There are many Chinese musical instruments. Different instruments are made of eight different types of materials, thus they derived the name Eight Notes. The instruments are made of metal like the gong, stone like the stone resonator, string as in huqin, bamboo as in the bamboo flute, fruit shell like the instrument in which you blow through a bottle gourd, earthenware like the ocarina, animal hide as in the drum and wood as in the rounded woodblock carved in the shape of a fish and struck with a wooden stick.
The Eight Hakka Notes came about when the Hakka people migrated from the Central Plains to the Mei County in Guangdong. Because they passed through many places, the Hakka people picked up music from the different regions and assimilated them into their own music. Over time, their music became a unique style of music, called the Eight Notes. Mind you, the Eight Notes have nothing to do with the eight instruments we talked about earlier. The Eight Hakka Note music is rich with Hakka culture in its plain instrumental music. Whether it is the different modes of music, performance styles, musical content or uses of the instruments, they have all been greatly influenced by traditional Chinese folk music. The Eight Hakka Note music is a valuable cultural treasure.
The instruments for the Eight Hakka Notes are divided into four big classifications. They are namely wind, string, plucked string, and percussion instruments. The most important instrument is the suona of the wind family. It acts as the conductor. The suona in Hakka is called the bamboo flute.
The suona belongs to the family of double reed wind instruments. It was originally from Persia. The word Suona comes from the Persian name “surna.” It was brought into China during the Jin and Yuan Dynasties. It is the main instrument in the Eight Notes of the Hakka music.
After the 1940s, the Hakka culture also absorbed western instruments such as the trumpet and the saxophone into its music. Surprisingly, the western instruments did not drown out the other instruments but instead helped bring out the beauty of the Hakka music.
The Eight Hakka Note music play an important role during banquets, welcoming parties and ceremonies. There are four occasions when the Eight Hakka note music is performed. The first is at temple events. The second at celebrations like the Lunar New Year, weddings or when a child passes an important entrance exam. The third occasion is at funerals. And the fourth would be at Pei-guan’s luan-tan Chinese operas. So as you can see, the Eight Hakka Note music plays a big part in the Hakka people’s everyday lives. It is present whenever there is a temple or religious event. It plays a big role at special occasions. And then it is intertwined in local plays and dramas, especially the traditional Taiwanese Pei-guan operas.
Most of the time, the Hakka music is performed using at least four players, whereas eight people can be used at the most. It depends on the type of performance that the master of the event asks for.
The more players you ask for, the more you have to pay for the performance. The most common number for a Hakka music performance is six players. That’s like the standard size of a public performance. Seven players would be considered a big group and seven is only asked for at big events. The maximum is eight players.
The Eight Hakka Note music is played in two ways, either using wind and percussion instruments or string instruments. Wind and percussion performances would be using, well… just wind and percussion instruments. Besides the suona, the only other thing would be percussion instruments. Usually this kind of music is played at ceremonies and events for welcoming deities. Most songs played are traditional tunes particularly Pei-guan, though Nan-guan and other regional folk songs may be played in some cases.
String performances use the Eight Note instruments. Other than the suona, the remaining traditional instruments are used as accompaniments. This kind of music is usually played at recitals or for pure enjoyment. You generally do not use this kind of music at ceremonies or welcoming parties. Most it is ceremonial music, but the most unique type of music can imitate the sound of voices in Chinese operas.
Now is the Lunar New Year holiday season. Everywhere in Hakka homes you will hear Hakka’ Eight Note music. After learning about the music, let’s enjoy different forms of the Eight Hakka Notes. First of all, let’s listen to the song 福祿壽 which uses wind and percussion instruments. This is a song played at birthday parties.
The next song called 十八摸 is played with the string instruments. 十八摸 is a song about the flirting love between a husband and his wife. It is a Hakka ballad and duet sung by of course, a man and a woman. The song uses the suona to imitate the male-female duet. You’ll see that it sounds very lively and interesting.
The last song is 春夏秋冬串 played solely by using string and woodwind instruments. It is mostly used during ceremonies.
Now that you’ve been introduced to the Eight Hakka Note music, it’s time to learn some Hakka expressions. Today we are going to teach some everyday greetings. You’ve learned before how to say “good morning”(客語)恁會早.
Now that you’ve been introduced to the Eight Hakka Note music, it’s time to learn some Hakka expressions. Today we are going to teach some everyday greetings. You’ve learned before how to say “good morning” (客語)恁會早 Then how would you say “good afternoon” and “good evening”? A lot of times, the Hakka people greet others by asking if they have eaten yet. So, that’s really what they ask when they say “good afternoon”