Harmonic convergence, with his lips

Updated: 2013-02-25 14:54

By Chen Yingqun (China Daily)

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Harmonic convergence, with his lips

Brendan Power says a harmonica can be expressive in traditional Chinese music. Zou Hong / China Daily


It is the kind of music you are likely to hear as you watch the sheriff's posse settle in for the night, warmed by the glowing embers of a campfire.

The harmonica is as much a part of American Westerns as howling coyotes, cicadas and Colt 45 revolvers. But the world-renowned harmonica player Brendan Power is so versatile with the instrument that he can transform it to play music that would not be out of place as the soundtrack to a costume drama set in ancient China.

That is exactly what Power, 56, did in Beijing recently when he gave an exquisite rendering of Jasmine, a well-known Chinese folk song, on his Western harmonica.

"This is awesome," said Xu Guangyu, 22, a harmonica lover who had traveled from Henan province in Central China to meet Power.

Power, whose music can be heard in Hollywood movies such as 2008's film Atonement which won an Academy Award for best soundtrack, toured China and gave a lecture in a Beijing blues club that was packed with fans who bombarded him with questions.

Jasmine, whose rendition particularly impressed the audiences that afternoon, is just one song on Power's latest album, New Chinese Harmonica. On it he plays nine well-known Chinese folk songs that were originally played on Chinese folk-music instruments such as the erhu, a string instrument, and the hulusi, a traditional Chinese free-reed wind instrument.

"This is my attempt to show Chinese people that the harmonica can actually be just as expressive for Chinese music as traditional instruments," he says.

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