Kejia daxi

Kejia daxi
(Hakka Grand Opera)
Kejia daxi is a form of Xiqu (sung drama/opera) performed in the language of the Hakka ethnic group on Taiwan. The genre developed from the ‘mountain songs’ (shange) and ‘tea-harvesting song skits’ (caichaxi) that pervaded Hakka life and work among the tea gardens in the mountainous areas of southern China. Kejia daxi is also known as Kejia gezaixi, for its process of development and performance structure parallel Gezaixi, the opera created by the Minnan-speaking majority on Taiwan. Kejia daxi absorbed its major performance elements and repertory from Jingju (Peking opera) and other regional operas. Several full-fledged Kejia daxi troupes had been formed by the 1920s.
Kejia daxi is distinguished from other regional operas by its music. The convention persists of singing duets in ‘tea-harvesting song skits’. Performers continue to sing in the vocal style of the traditional Hakka folksong performances, using their natural register. Two major song styles, shangezi and pingban, provide the basic melodic structures and rhythmic patterns to which lyrics can be fitted.
With rising endnotes in each lyrical line and greater intervals between notes, the shangezi is employed in scenes involving heightened emotions or strong declarations. The pingban, on the other hand, is characterized by a regular beat and more level notes, ideal for descriptive and sentimental narration. Songs with set melodies and lyrics are also be used for particular scenes. Kejia daxi is performed outdoors at temple fairs in Hakka communities, and indoors in performance centres for theatre festivals. There are currently about twelve Kejia daxi troupes in Taiwan.
Chang, Chiung-fang (2000). ‘Opera, Anyone? Hakka Traditions in Transition’. Trans. David Mayer. Sinorama Magazine 6:94–100.
Qiu, Hui-ling (2000). Chashan quweiyang: Taiwan kejiaxi [Resonance in the Mountains: Hakka Opera in Taiwan]. Taipei: Shangzhou (BWE).

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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