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Kuai Ban Traditional Chinese Clappers
Genuine handcrafted instruments for ancient Chinese "rap" music.

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Chinese Traditional Clappers
Kuai Ban: Ancient Chinese "Rap" Music

What is Kuai Ban?
Kuai ban (pronounced "kwai bahr") is a unique folk art where storytellers accompany their own vocal performance with the rhythmic sound of bamboo or brass clappers.

Chances are, if you get a set of kuai ban clappers, you will skip the storytelling business. But there is no telling what marvelous rhythmic
innovations you will come up with when you experiment with these exotic percussion instruments. This is a true golden opportunity to create original new percussive inventions in Western music.

Bones in Ancient China
Some folks say musical bones were played in ancient China. Here are three references.

1. This first reference is from a report published in the Rhythm Bones Player (vol 5, no 1, 2003). The report cites a reference from the minstrel era:
The Harper's New Monthly Magazine article titled The Ancestry of Brudder Bones appearing in the 1878-9 issue states that bones were among the musical instruments of Chinese Emperor Fon Hi the first. The date was around 3500 B.C.

2. Steve Brown is the director of the Rhythm Bones Society. Steve is also the only two-time consecutive All-Ireland Bones Playing Championship winner from America. He cites this reference in his article entitled The Bones, which appears on the Drum Dojo website:
The New Groves Dictionary of Music and Musicians in a brief listing on the bones states, "The bones were played in China before 3000 BC, in Egypt around that date, and in ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and medieval Europe."

3. My nephew has lived in China around ten years. I recently asked if he ever saw musical bones there. Here is what he told me:
Well, I have seen bones here. They are used to accompany a "rapper" as he tells a sort of rhyming story. The art is from Shandong province (literally Mountain East) and is hundreds of years old. It's called "kuai ban" in Mandarin which literally means fast clacker or "kuai shu" which means fast tales.

So there you have it. Three references (obscure as they might be) to bone playing in ancient China. And yes, folks do play bones in China now. But
kuai ban is quite different from bone playing in the Western world.

The Father of Kuai Ban
The art form was developed by Li Runjie during the midst of World War II. An old friend of the Li family (and a virtouso kuai ban performer himself) is Liang Houmin. He explains that "Mr. Li was born into a poor farmer's family. He was apprenticed in Tianjin while still a youngster. By the time he reached 18, he was indentured by Japanese occupation forces to work in a coalmine as a miner. But he fled from the mine and began life as a beggar. No doubt, life then was miserable, yet, right at that time, he learned to play the "Shu Lai Bao", a rhythmic story telling to the accompaniment of the clappers, played by beggars to make a living." Liang Houmin explains that by the 1950s Mr. Li had fully developed the art of kuai ban and become famous.

How to Play Traditional Kuai Ban Bamboo Clappers
Ready to get started? Watch this how-to video by Liang Houmin. The tutorial runs around ten minutes. (The link opens a new browser window that takes you to the Kuai Ban website. Yes, it is in Chinese, but you will understand the technique.)

Be the first kid on your block to own a set of genuine Chinese Traditional Kuai Ban Clappers! You can get both bamboo and brass half-moon kuai ban clappers at this store. Order yours now.

Kuai Ban Resources

Kuai Ban Website
This website is packed with a wealth of information, videos - and even a forum on traditional Chinese musical clappers.
Babel Fish Translation

Tutorial Video
How to Play Traditional Kuai Ban Bamboo Clappers

By Liang Houmin

Watch video 10:05 minutes
Full screen/Large screen

The Story of Kuai Ban (article in English)
By Liang Houmin
Part 1
Part 2

Interview With Kuai Ban Performer
Watch video 8:27 minutes
Full screen/Large screen

Kuai Ban Performance

Zhang Zhikuan
Watch video 10:08 minutes
Full screen/Large screen

Watch video 11:14 minutes
Full screen/Large screen

Watch video 16:19 minutes
Full screen/Large screen

"How To Sing"
Observe students learning the intricacies of kuai ban spoken art using brass half-moon clappers.
Watch video
15:22 minutes
Watch video w/supporting English text
Full screen/Large screen

"Yellow Land Son"

Documentary about kuai ban master Zhang Bao (assistant regimental commander of armed police cultural work group).
Watch video 30:02 minutes
Full screen/Large screen

"One Hundred Years of Kuai Ban"
Episode 8 of documentary series on kuai ban. Focus is on founder, Li Runjie.
Watch video 40:10 minutes
Watch video w/supporting English text
Full screen/Large screen