I had not planned to research female vocalists when I first arrived at Nankai University in Tianjin on a dry September afternoon in 1985.1 Instead, I was mentally prepared to study the relationships of music and language in the narrative genres known as quyi,2 for which the city was nationally famous. Anxious to get started, I began attending performances by members of the Tianjin Municipal Quyi Arts Troupe and requesting interviews with those performers. My discovery of the central position of powerful female singers in the troupe came during my first interview.