Pok dai-bay, cheong son gaw,
Yun-yun wah-ngaw mo lo-paw!
Tien-nyet yau tchien de chow fon-gaw!
In the first scene in PAPER ANGELS, a character named Lum recites this silly little ditty that playwright Genny Lim remembered from her childhood. When we did this scene last year, the rhythm of this little verse made me think of hip hop and I toyed with taking it all the way, maybe even with Lum doing some human beatbox. It seemed a little too much though, so I just let the actor stumble through it, though I did suggest that he liken it to a childhood rhyme.
This year, I did some more research, thinking there MUST be a Chinese version of speech song or recitative, maybe in Chinese opera? I don't know what I finally googled but I discovered shuo chang or kuaiban shu.
It's apparently hundreds of years old from the Shandong Province in China - okay, that's north China, but who's to say that Lum couldn't have been part Hakka like the guy above? I'm part Hakka and I can personally attest that Hakkas are EVERYWHERE. They're in Peru. They're in Malaysia. They're definitely in southern China. Or maybe he was totally awestruck by some kickass traveling Shandong Province kuaiban shu master? Whatever, it's an amazing technique and the only reason I can think that it's not more known is that there's obviously nothing remotely elite about it.
Now I'm all about teaching the actor playing Lum to accompany his rap with those bamboo clappers. He has another little ditty further along in the script too, this time in English. Get a load of this Canadian professor Kuaiban-ing it in English, hot!
PAPER ANGELS will be performing in Portsmouth Square, Sept 15-17. Help us bring this seminal play to San Francisco - we have until August 30 to raise $5,000 on Kickstarter!