In July 2011, Liu Yelong, a then 22-year-old student who had just graduated from Nanjing Agricultural University, arrived in Meigu county of Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture, Southwest China’s Sichuan province.
His trip to the remote mountainous area had nothing to do with rest or recreation.
With a major in labor and social security under his belt, Liu had participated in some charity work and did research on rural development. During his second year at university, he went to a school in rural Anhui province as a volunteer teacher, which inspired him to continue the role after graduation.
He had planned to teach at a school in Meigu county for two years and then either return to academia to further his study and gain a master’s degree or prepare for the civil servant exam and get a stable job.
However, Liu didn’t expect that, 10 years later, he would still be teaching in the county.
He also didn’t expect to uncover the musical talent of his students, nor that he would found a band, called Shiguangzhe Jihua, comprised of six high school students－three boys and three girls.
On Nov 25, during the New Year of the Yi ethnic group, which was celebrated from Nov 23 to 27, the band released an album, titled Shiguangde Shengyin, or The Sounds of Time. It features four original songs written by the band members that express their thoughts and emotions about growing up, and two songs adapted from Yi folk songs, one of which is about a traditional wedding and the other a ballad about a shepherd.
Since July 2019, when Liu first shared their music on social media, the band has gained a large fan base. Their first video, which saw Liu’s students singing Yi folk songs while playing the guitar and hand drums, sitting by a campfire dressed in traditional garb, earned the band over 10,000 fans in one day and has been viewed 250,000 times. To date, the band has performed over 100 Yi folk songs, sharing them online with their 180,000 followers.
In July, the band was crowned champions of the fifth season of China Yi Singing Competition, produced by the TV Station of Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture.