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Editor’s Pick #168: Chinese Chicks Choose Classical Concert Contraptions, Competently Cover Coldplay’s “Clocks” by bzr
Twelve Girls Band covers Western songs with Chinese instruments

Twelve Girls Band covers Western songs with Chinese instruments

Twelve is a significant number in Chinese culture. There are, as any restaurant placemat will tell you, 12 animals in the zodiac. There are 12 golden hairpins, or jinchai, that represent womanhood. Twelve “Earthly Branches” follow the planets’ orbits to determine months, seasons and hours. The lunar calendar is split into 12-year cycles. And Twelve Girls Band has—you know it—12 girls in it.

The classically-trained members Twelve Girls Band all hail  from China’s top music conservatories. Chosen from 4,000 auditions, they play classical instruments such as the erhu, a two-stringed fiddle; the guzheng, a zither dating back to the Qin Dynasty; and the yangqin, a hammered dulcimer originating from ancient Persia. With these they inject some drama into traditional Chinese melodies as well as modern Western pieces—like Coldplay’s Grammy-Award-winning hit “Clocks:”

While they faithfully replicate Chris Martin’s stirring, minimalist piano riff, they also give it the distinctive voice and solo of otherwise-forgotten instruments that peaked in the lavish court ensembles of ancient Chinese royalty. The result is a stunning blend of the familiar—Western ears will recognize the opening notes at a Pavlovian level, while those from the People’s Republic will spot the dizi (a Western-style flute) solo in place of the vocals from a mile away—and the unheard-of, combining into something beautiful that proves to be greater than the sum of its parts.

Twelve Girls Band has toured America in 2004 and 2005, promoting two of their six studio albums. They’ve played Live Earth as well as striking it huge in Japan—and there should be no surprise to their popularity with songs like these.

— Blake Rong, Features Editor

Dizi

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