Vignettes 4: Wu Mei

I’ve already written a tribute to Wu Mei’s artistry.

WM Nanterre raincoat

Wu Mei improvises rainwear with a bin bag, Nanterre.

Wu Mei has become a local star, a true musician renowned for his amazing guanzi playing, just as outstanding as that of his seniors. He plays sheng (if he gets a chance) and percussion too, and sings the vocal liturgy.

WM on sheng 2013

Wu Mei on sheng, 2013.

Around 2009 he was often working as a welder in town, having learned the trade from his older brother. For this he received the princely sum of 120 kuai a day, as opposed to 80 kuai for two days working as a Daoist; his monthly earnings as a welder were more than twice what he could make as a Daoist. But during the busy winter season he was still working fifteen to twenty days a month as a Daoist, and seven or eight days a month in the summer. By 2011 he was happy to be working full-time as a Daoist again—not least because as a star attraction he was now able to command an extra half share more than the others.

I’ve described Wu Mei’s constant explorations on the guanzi. I love his new refinements in the exquisite Zouma suite (cf. audio playlist, track 4, from 2013), adding little bits of vibrato on some sultry low passages, like Billie Holiday.

He gets a standing ovation for his trick sequence, and so he should. This year I note a sweet new gesture—yes, it’s an ear trumpet:

WM tricks CF

Tricks, Clermont-Ferrand.


Nanterre. Photo: Nathalie Béchet.

I’m pleased with myself for thinking of following the exuberance of the tricks with the total contrast of the solemn Invitation ritual, which we first added on our German tour in 2013.

6 thoughts on “Vignettes 4: Wu Mei

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