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Manhu, Sani band from China, visits DSU

A Lan of Manhu leads female audience members in a Da SanXian dance in DSU's Beck Auditorium, Friday. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)1 / 4
Wang Tao and A Lan of Manhu teach audience members how to play a leaf in DSU's Beck Auditorium, Friday. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)2 / 4
Manhu's interpreter, Josh Dyer, calls on audience members for questions in Beck Auditorium. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)3 / 4
Gao Wei and Wang Tao of Manhu play a xiao san xian and a yue qian, respectively, in DSU's Beck Auditorium, Friday. (Kayla Henson / The Dickinson Press)4 / 4

Dickinson State University's World Fest continued this week with workshops and performances by Manhu, a band from the Stone Forest of Yunnan Province in southwestern China.

Manhu, or "The Fierce Tigers," play the traditional music of the Sani people with a modern twist that includes instruments such as the yue qian, or "moon lute"; the da sanxian, or "big three strings"; and the xiao san xian, or "three little strings." The two stringed instruments are played by young and old men, respectively, and are played for dancing.

During their workshop, Manhu led the audience in a quick tempo Da SanXian dance and showed them how to use a leaf as a reed instrument.

They performed traditional songs, including a part of the Song of Ashima.

"Ashima is the name of a legendary woman who was very beautiful, very brave, very kind, and even today amongst the Sani people, they will address any woman as Ashima as a way to praise that woman," Wang Tao told the audience via interpreter.

When Manhu formed in 2004, they performed western-style music with electric guitars, bass and drums.

In 2009, they began presenting Sani music. A Wa, the band's percussionist, said there were two reasons for the change. They felt that they had been mimicking western styles that they had heard and that they wouldn't be able to play it as well as the western bands. They wanted to be unique and good at the music they played. They also wanted to preserve their culture.

"(We) realized that already most people (our) age didn't know this music, and (we) were lucky to have grown up with it because of the circumstances (we) grew up in," said A Wa via interpreter. "So (we) felt a sense of responsibility that we might be the last people that will be able to transmit this music. The next generation certainly won't."

They didn't plan to play outside of China in the beginning. It was a slow process, and opportunities just presented themselves, said Wang Tao, lead vocalist and woodwind player, via interpreter.

This trip is their third outside of China. The first was in Thailand, but the second and third were in the U.S.

They've found Americans to be friendly and hospitable.

"It doesn't matter if it's in the hotel or just on the street, people who don't even know you are going to give you a big smile and greet you," said A Wa via interpreter.

Manhu will perform at DSU in Beck Auditorium, inside Klinefelter Hall on Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. The cost to attend the performance is $10 for adults or $5 for seniors, children and students with a valid ID. Tickets can be purchased at www.dickinsonstate.edu/worldfest or at the door that night beginning at 6 p.m.

Their performances are part of a two-year partnership between Dickinson State University and Arts Midwest, a nonprofit regional arts organization, that brings four different international ensembles to DSU. The next and final group will be the Unni Boksasp Ensemble, which will arrive in Dickinson next spring.

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