Melodious Plateau: Politics and Song at Losar (The Tibetan New Year)

[This is a guest post by Kristiana Henderson of Pacific Lutheran University, based upon research begun in Tibet in October 2010 and continued for the duration of that fall in Chengdu and western Sichuan province, PRC.  Henderson uses some Tibetan characters in the post which, depending on your font sympathies and access, may not display in their entirety -- a fitting enough irony considering the content of the post.

Speaking more globally, people whose scholarly gears turn along musicological lines should not miss next week's conference on Asian Pop Music at Princeton University.  It's a great line up, with lots of papers about Japan.  But without any papers about North Korean hip-hop [a subject about which, to my knowledge, I remain the sole academic to have published anything about] or an appearance from Tokyo-London by the art-music-and-”menstruation machine”-generator-provocateur Sputniko!, the conference may be just as notable for what it is lacking.  And thus back to Tibet, and definitions in reference to absence.  — Adam Cathcart]


བགྲ་ཤིས་བདེ་ལེགས!  Best wishes for ལོ་སར /Losar/Tibetan New Year.

Holidays connected to a particular ethnicity in China have a way of strengthening definitions of what it means to belong to that identity. Losar, usually sandwiched neatly between Chinese New Year and the Iranian/Kurdish/Zoroastrian New Year, is such a holiday: something uniquely Tibetan (or, at least, Himalayan). For Tibet in particular,  this kind of cultural “spin cycle” of Chinese and indigenous holidays has gone even further into overdrive amidst the dual wash cycles of globalization and an increasingly strong presence of Han Chinese culture in Tibetan popular culture and media.

The metaphor of wash cycles, when applied to Tibet, however, may not contain the desired connotations.  Dare I be more explicit in the connotation of white-washing, or, depending on one’s proclivities, ethnic cleansing?

[Having posed a heart-racing question, the author then proceeds to ignore it. - A.C.]

What interests me much more is how cultures — and all of the facets — that go into sculpting cultural identity, regional differences, complexities in beliefs and values, historiographies, and the interweaving of “healthy” and “not-so-healthy” parts of a culture all get instantly stripped into an easily definable “symbolic” package that can be instantly understood, and, in being instantly understood, become better able to be controlled and “sold” for a target demographic.

Tibetan dress, dialect, music and dancing styles, etc. that are unique to regions and class end up cherry-picked, boiled down into a nice jam that can be easily spread over the bland white bread of mass media. Couple this with China’s heavy hand in ethic minorities’ self-expression, and you have the questions surrounding Tibetan identity in a nutshell.

My own interests began with the policy side of things, looking directly at minority language education policy.  In the midst of this research, I decided to “get in the mood” by finding some decent Tibetan music on QQ music, the Chinese portal, or, now back in the U.S., through YouTube, the perennial time death-trap of the collegian. My discoveries led me into a world of synthesizers mixed with traditional instruments, rap mixed with the soulful, plaintive traditional “warbling,” solo singers and mass performances, and music videos dominated by scenes of spinning prayer wheels, men singing in flower fields, and smiling women either dancing or herding yaks

(Occasionally there were some who tried to get a fresher “Hip Hop” image, but due to the lack of quality in the video itself and the self-consciousness of all the performances, it was too painful to continue watching.  Interesting enough that in some of these incorporate a strange mix of “gangster” and “Abercrombie” images….my take-home message seems to be what I noticed just in my travels and interactions in Tibet: whatever is American sells, not only because it’s “cool,” but because it provides a viable alternative to Chinese mass culture.)

[I would also add that much of the Tibetan exposure to what is regarded as hip-hop on the plateau seems to be strained through South Korean idioms and fashion. -- A.C.]

Regardless, the videos left me with questions.  So, if the Tibetans were completely left to their own devices in creating these music videos, and there were absolutely no political constraints on the images and themes they are and are not allowed to broadcast, would there really be this many effing yaks on my computer screen right now?

Cleaned up for academic purposes, I believe it’s a good question to ask, because the implications behind the question are directly related to who is actually in control of how a culture is projected to a larger audience.

Are the images a result of constraints placed by Beijing? Then I’d call it stereotyping and boxing in of a minority culture for post-colonial styles of mass-commodification. If this was truly done free-willingly by Tibetan artists, then I’d suspect the free market, and if the Invisible Hand wants beat-box while milk some sheep on the Tibetan Plateau.  If the latter is the case, then so be it.

How, then, was Losar 2011 presented?  I’ve seen a variety of performances on YouTube already, some involving kids’ shows, some incredibly campy comedy routines centering on illiteracy, that seem more like a daytime slapstick show out of Taibei than Markham, although I doubt even in Taibei they would have a 2008 Beijing Olympics Gift Bag as a prop…. Some have varying levels of “traditional” Tibetan folk costume and dance routines. Some, including some of the advertisements, are in the Tibetan Language (although “surprisingly” many of these have even the tones and inflections of Chinese than even Lhasa Tibetan). Some of the programming is just done straight-up in Chinese and have a few interesting themes woven in besides (check out this one as well), and it’s interesting just to see the theme for comedy material in terms of language used. Also, let’s look at this gem of a bizarre and possibly paternalistic fashion show. Some shows geared for kids, opening up yet another Pandora’s box regarding how to teach kids “how to be Tibetan.”

Simultaneously, there are quite a few popular music videos (I can only guess this is also the case within the 雪城) circulating now around by famous Tibetan singers. The common theme is extolling the virtues of…Tibetan identity. Judging by the fact that these videos were taken from Chinese television channels and/or Chinese Youtube, I can assume that these 土豆videos weren’t TOO hot for the Harmonious Society to handle. But they could be deemed politically “sensitive” nonetheless.

One I  have been enjoying particularly as of late has been a certain Lobsang’s song known in Chinese as 西藏同胞, or Tibetan Brothers/Compatriots…I find neither word to be entirely right, because 同胞 also has implications with coming from the same womb. Hmmm…but doesn’t that seem to stand in stark contrast with China’s concept of 国家, or nationality, that also implies familial ties? Oh, sure, in the background he doesn’t fly the Snow Lion flag, but rather the PRC-okayed multi-colored flag that nondescriptly symbolizes “The Other Chinese.”

But at the same time, considering how much I’ve seen the word “Honda” flashed across the screen, it seems he’s in love with the fact that his motorbike is Japanese as much as the freedom it gives him to roll with his homies (as one Tibetan rather impishly told me, “You see, I’m Tibetan, not Chinese, so I can like Japan!”).

This begs the question:

Is it just me, an outsider back in U.S. territory on the “other side” of the GFW [Great Firewall], or are the “unity themes” in Tibetan music becoming more and more prevalent? Even more, how have these even been able to get through the Chinese media — are they suddenly pulling a [reform-in-Tibet agenda of] Hu Yaobang again? Let’s couple this with the fact that Tashi Dhondhup, a popular singer from Amdo who was just released a few weeks ago from 15 months of “re-education” through hard labor. Considering that unlike most other protest songs in Tibet, which are generally far less blatantly political, I am frankly rather surprised that a singer whose album titled “Torture without Trace” expounded on the unfairness of the “Chinese occupation,” their colonial extractions of Tibet’s resources, the lack of Tibetan rights, sterilization, and other commonly voiced (but seldom published) concerns, received a sentence for “only” 15 months, and that at the end of it, he was released. On a sidenote, I wish he more extrapolated on his concerns about what was happening in Tibet rather than just sang in generalities, but that’s just the empirical part of me speaking; but considering that he didn’t back up his claims in his songs, it makes China’s imperative for his arrest all the more thought-provoking…

To put this further into perspective, it’s still been less than three years since the Tibetan uprisings. And similarly, let’s remember that while there were hundreds of arrests and surrenders in Lhasa, the Tibetan areas in ethnographic Tibet, there were even more outside of the T.A.R.

It’s well understood by both the Western media, Tibet activist groups, and a U.S. Congressional Report that Sichuan province, particularly southern 青海,Ngawa or 阿坝 prefecture in Amdo, as well as parts of 甘孜, or the Kham regions, were also especially strong hotbeds of protest. [The self-immolation of a monk in the Amdo region last week was reported on by both the New York Times and the China Daily. -- A.C.]  The take-home message here is that there is much to be said about hell-raising in the Tibetan areas outside of the T.A.R., and particularly from where Tashi Dhondhup hails. If anything, China should be more concerned (and probably is) about the greater, “Ethnographic” Tibet that includes Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, and Yunnan, since any Tibet independence movement would not be confined to where Beijing drew the lines on the map. And let’s not forget that these areas that also have many more Han Chinese residing…

To broaden the perspective further: as is commonly known both inside of China as well as worldwide, Liu Xiaobo, another protesting jailbird, won the Nobel Prize this year. Also…the snow is melting, and that means Spring, and historically for China, that means it’s Revolution Season. I recall a Chinese guide I met last August in Xi’an, who, on the way to the terra-cotta warriors introduced us to China by describing China as a chicken because of its shape, in which Beijing is the head, Xi’an the heart, Sichuan the stomach, “and Tibet, Well…” he said smugly. (大汉主义, much?) But in all honesty, considering these current trends in Tibetan music that seem to be kindling the flames of separatism, how much is China actually protecting “its ass?”

What, then, would be more subtle forms of subversion?

Correct me if I am wrong, and I’m especially addressing readers who can understand the Tibetan lyrics firsthand and all of their subtle nuances, but it is absolutely not difficult to find potential subversiveness in Tibetan popular music, albeit this is often done through far more subtle hints. Take Sonam Tashi’s song known in Chinese as 思念 or “Longing,” which, according to the translations posted at the bottom, are focused on the singer’s profound grievances that his Lama has passed on to somewhere he can’t go, and he wishes to follow him, asking to fly with the eagles to this distant place. He also sings of his estranged “brothers and sisters.” Am I reading too much into this, or do these lyrics strike anyone else as “saying it without saying it”?

Yadong/亚东, as well as his protégé Gunga/根呷, two other extremely popular Kham singers well regarded by both Chinese and Tibetans (despite the fact that some of his most popular songs, because of their Dalai Lama-related “innuendo,” have also been blacklisted), also wrote of his Lama-lessness. Essentially, the DL’s there, but still kept on the DL.

I should point out: Sonam also has a great motorcycle-based song about Tibetan identity (wonderful jogging music), and Gunga also has a song called 家乡, or Phayul (Homeland), that also extrapolates on a generic sense of Tibetan identity that seems meant more for “rallying the troops” and encouraging Pan-Tibetan pride than subscribing to the Chinese versions of nationality — I recommend just reading between the lines and seeing what they’re not saying about their identity that Hu Jintao would find 完全正确….or absolutely correct, as he said regarding ethnic minority policy back in September 2009.

Perhaps these are just my oversimplifications, but it seems that if you only change a few words around and make it sound like it was just your local guru who kicked the bucket, you can publish your music in China while your own interpretive community gets the last laugh. It’s interesting to note that they all have very popular songs sung in Chinese (think: 卓玛, 彩虹下的心愿, or 姑娘我爱你, or other rather mainstream, classic hits well known even to young Han Chinese), but these tend to be much more romantic, simple, and generic, the Tibetan themes more nicely “packaged” for enjoyment for a greater interest. It’s an easily commodifiable way to present being Tibetan. The songs in their Tibetan language extrapolate on many more religious and political themes, such as the aforementioned 思念¸which, frankly, I’m surprised to see even offered on my QQ playlist (and, frankly, if you’re on QQ music, you’ve won the seal of approval). Download commencing….now.

And again, mostly these political come in the form of rallying for “unity.” Ohhh! How nice! Says 和谐-obsessed Beijing, see? I knew we had something in common!

Suuuure we did, China, suuure we did, responds the rebellious side of Tibetan music.

I’m thinking especially about some of the songs by Sherten/谢旦, who on one hand won the 2009 Tibetan Music Artist of the Year award and has his songs available for download on QQ Music, but on the other, has published songs, the possession of which are considered “illegal” because of their “sensitive topics.” It’s not that he is stigmatized in the PRC, or at least not officially — but word on the street is that the Chinese were randomly stopping to check Tibetans’ cell phones to see if they were carrying his song about “Unity” that calls for Tibetans to put aside their regional differences and see themselves as part of a Pride movement in Pan-Tibetanism. And in this way, all those Chinese-defined borders of 自治区/ 所谓 “Autonomous Regions” would even more lose legitimacy as Tibetans are reminded of the traditional borders of their homeland that imply statehood. The PRC is walking a very thin line, indeed: on one hand, they are “giving the people what they want” by allowing for the natural supply and demand of the market for Tibetan popular music. Academically stated, allowing people to listen to what they want keeps them happy; if they are happy, in theory, they’re less likely to cause riots. But on the other hand, if the songs that make people happy subvert state authority in a nation that has historically had very major issues with handling political discourse, then the line has to be drawn somewhere.

In short: Sherten and Yadong good, but some of their songs bad. Again, we see China pulling a Hu Yaobang and not being straight with their policy on Tibet, because in the end, the Han Chinese may be more willing to chuck this popular culture out as either sentimental drivel or separatist nonsense (IF they are able to get the translations from Tibetan!!), and Tibetans will of course want to embrace the songs of all their compatriots, whether they sing of the women they love, the lamas they miss, or their pan-Tibetan identity on Japanese wheels. Tashi Dhondhup is free, and the 西藏问题continues.

Questions:

For anyone reading this who knows Tibetan, would it be possible to:

A.     Tell me where this performance by Sherten was held…? Was it in China, India, or elsewhere…?

B.     Confirm for me this case about cell phone “confiscations” related to the Sherten song?

C.     Tell me, what is Gunga singing in Tibetan in 家乡/ཕ་ཡུལ?

Any and all help, comments, or research materials on the above themes would be greatly appreciated.

– Kristiana Henderson, Tacoma, Washington, March 10, 2011

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33 thoughts on “Melodious Plateau: Politics and Song at Losar (The Tibetan New Year)

  1. What did the Tibetn guy say? “我是藏人,不是汉人” or “我是藏人, 不是中国人”?

    • Regarding the “I am Tibetan, not Chinese…,” statement was in English, thereby getting to avoid the political implications…at least for the time being. However, there were many other times when this same Tibetan would sometimes declare the “me vs. them” dichotomy BOTH as “me” and “the Han” (especially if it was more personal, related simply to something like “talking with my Chinese friends”) AS WELL AS “me, the Tibetan” and “them, the Chinese,” with a very deliberate political message in the latter usage. Both this Tibetan as well as others I have talked to walk a very fine line indeed in this identity question: overall, there seems to be a general, begruding acceptance that Tibet is a part of China and therefore, by default, Tibetans are also Chinese. At the same time, this “Chinese” identity frankly still tends to mean little for anything other than (albeit very important) legalities, such as 户口 registries and Chinese passports. Sometimes this is simply a linguistic nuance that is missed (I’ve also spoken with other Tibetans who simply do not know much Chinese, to say nothing of English, so there’s also a possibility that if they did use 汉族 versus 中国人, the difference could just be lost due to the fact that whatever Chinese they were taught, it would almost certainly emphasize 民族 differences rather than encourage Tibetans how to identify their identites based on a separate national identity! Ironically, these are also some of the same individuals who would MOST likely be most “adamantly Tibetan,” considering especially the lack of contact with 汉族/中华文化…come to think of it, I can’t think of a time when I’ve heard anything described as 汉族文化, that just sounds awkward, and that REALLY makes this whole “Chinese culture” definition even more problematic. But I digress).
      So, long story short, I’d venture that while the primary self-description would still be “我是藏人,不是中国人,” you’d also still hear people describing themselves as 藏族 in relation to 汉族, if only out of either a linguistic nuance that missed the radar, or a tacit acceptance of a political reality.
      Thanks for the question. Let me know if this 到底 makes sense.

  2. By the way, thank you to Professor Cathcart for finding this “Thank You” video by MC Tenzin. This performer’s videos happen to encorporate much of what I referred to in terms of videos I could not finish watching due to embarassment for the performer. 哈哈. Also, just for your viewing pleasure, I should also share this link with you, simply because it begs the highly academic question of what exactly is Lobsang using an office chair as a prop, as well as if he is actually standing on it an swinging around on it. Very subversive, I know. Regardless, I hope you enjoy this as much as I did…or, even more, that you have better use of your time. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IjC0ekXjmw

    Sidenote1: There has been some very wonderful (in my opinion) mixing of traditional folk songs with more “modern,” AKA globalized elements. Let me know if you want further links, since I am continuing to discover fun stuff.
    Sidenote 2: This self-immolation problem is something that might be worth following. This isn’t the first time Kirti monastery in particular has raised hell.
    Sidenote 3: I spelled Losar wrong. The correct spelling should be ལོ་གསར. I forgot the ever-pesky ག.

    • Yer darn right that ག is pesky! Is this anything like those letters in French that we don’t pronounce, yet need to include in order to be good writers?

      • Well, it’s annoying to be studying Tibetan without adequate audio material, but there are many letters in the alphabet when, used either before or after the “main” phoneme in each syllable, is not actually pronounced, but just changes the tone or inflection for the main phoneme. Sometimes, as I understand, it can be pronounced very briefly and subtly, or help in making more of a gutteral sound in some cases, as is the case with ལོ་གསར. Actually, I guess I’ll further extend my shout-out to ask that if anyone reading this knows of good (and not outrageously expensive) audio assistance programs, websites, etc., in learning Tibetan, I’d appreciate that. I have several otherwise very helpful books, but it strikes me that while the irony is enjoyable, it’s otherwise not going to help *that* much using Chinese books that liken pronunciation to standard Mandarin pronunciation, and overall my lack of confidence in being able to both speak and hear when the script isn’t in front of me is definitely slowing me down (I’m not even at the point where I can just blame it on “regional dialects,” haha). But those are just my suspicions.

    • Thanks, Dechen! Next time you comment it should go through faster, not sure why this one wasn’t automatically approved….Great to see you here again! And glad that Kristiana helped me get something of value, Tibet-wise, on the site.

      • Yes, thanks so much for this link/the help! I definitely appreciate it. Hmmm…this performance was in Chengdu, eh? That’s particularly interesting…

        • Hey yo 陈小姐, unacademic prose infernal/clogs up the comment box of my 东方亚洲 journal
          Frequent visitations by the CCP?/Would I be so flattered if they weren’t censoring me?
          Guidelines of a state putative, multilingual/56 with the right, or was it one with the big bull
          对牛弹琴 with all Tibetan rhymes?/The right to speak surmise, curtail and revise
          Linguistic statutes running, like a Jiang Zemin inscription
          Poured out on the Potala, it’s a CCP vision
          Laughing from the belly or just smiling from the face?
          These photographic race wars must be effaced and
          Scribbled on the margins of a 汉英藏大典
          My righteous vision penned in my mother tongue again
          Bread, like tsamba, crumbles from the window
          of a bus up the switchback,
          Yo, can we switch back? //
          Yaks rumble, down the green velour
          Calcutta lingers, sure, you’ll make it there, endure
          Anglophone Tibetans, can you feel the roar?
          On that spiked plateau, on the plateau born…
          [tbcontinued ?]

          I do believe that was a rap challenge. Obviously I don’t think that you can top my Obi-wan rhymes and, at the same time, continue to pour on the academic prose!

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      • That, and a more becoming surrounding than a library.
        (That said, I’m not necessarily recommending Chengdu, even if a show in front of Jiang Zemin’s inscription would be kind of spectacular.)

      • I think I want to borrow this guy’s beat, makes me realize one can store up rhymes for YEARS and then unleash them in a huge (and occasionally topical) torrent with the help of my old man Nebula One in Connecticut, beat-master extraordinaire…

        • On a similar note, thought it would be fun to share this one too…how about the Heart Sutra and intro-ing it with traditional throat warbling has proven to be another great rap medium?! Also, you gotta love this get-up, complete with a bandana that says “Tibet” in Tibetan, in case you were left doubting anything besides his apparent lipsyncing.

          This other gem I found (that is conveniently linked to the sutra rapping) is also interesting. More fun with angsty, Amdo B.A.-ness. I’m just left wondering how these guys were able to get together and make this video in the first place. E

  4. Aye – besides, it was the library again, and you read from a paper, rather than from a screen next to the camera. But kudos anyway.

  5. In “Phayul” Kunga sings two Tibetan verses. Both verses are traditional Tibetan poems written by the sixth Dalai Lama — all Tibetans will be familiar with these verses. So familiar, in fact, that when the Chinese news interviewed a 10 year old Tibetan boy who was helping translate for Chinese doctors after the Yushu earthquake, and asked him to sing a Tibetan song, he began singing the white crane song, and then burst into tears (you can search for this video on tudou or youku). Ajia (Acha Tsendep) also has a song about Makye Ame. I would bet many other singers do, too.

    Tibetan Verse #1:
    Above the eastern mountain
    A clear white moon rises
    It is the face of Makye Ame (“unborn mother”)
    Enchants me again and again

    Tibetan Verse #2:
    Small, white crane
    Lend me your wings
    I will not fly far
    Just to Litang and back

    In terms of listening materials for learning Tibetan, I’m a fan of the CD that comes with the Manual of Standard Tibetan. I also recommend poking around THL (formerly THDL) — they even have non-Lhasa dialect recordings.

        • Thank you so much again for this information, I greatly appreciate it, and I certainly have an even greater appreciation for this song…
          Overall, I’ve noticed that there is also something of a (growing?) trend in Tibetan popular music to insert well-known, traditional poetry and even folk songs into something infused with a more hip-hop/rap flavor. I’ve caught that even the otherwise all-Chinese song “亲爱的姑娘我爱你” by 索朗扎西 also slips in a few lines of classical Tibetan poetry. I wonder now how this trend for older poetry is regarded by listeners at large, if this is something readily accepted and made mainstream, or if listeners would like to see more of a “branching out” from classical poetry in music…? After all, even the choice of using excerpts from classical poetry beg the question of not only aesthetic value, but also political and the “exploitaiton” of these things for a commercial value. Thanks for this pointer, I should explore the shout-outs to past Dalai Lamas in pop music further…!
          And thank you for the language help. I hope to start officially taking classes later this year, but regardless, of course the more I

        • (continued) can pick up sooner, the better! And getting beyond the Lhasa dialect is a definite bonus…I hope that Tibet’s linguistic plurality will continue to go strong, because I am only beginning to tell how rich the dialect variances are. I would love to 代表 that.

        • You can totally daibiao anything you want! I think the world would be a way richer place if people were less careful about whose stuff they daibiaoed. Looking for a second at this concept of some pure “intellectual property of nations”, isn’t that ridiculous in some way? If the Tibetans have the best clothing and lifestyle, would it be a crime for a young Han Chinese Beijing University drop-out to imitate everything but the diet (yes he would even include the music videos, and the language lessons!), get a yurt and live in eastern Heilongjiang? The problem is that too many people are daibiaoing hukous when they should be daibiaoing rampant criss-crossing of paths which are linguistic, genetic, and otherwise. And with Tibet, the whole world goes through phases of technology and intellectual transfer to and from the plateau in waves whose size, whose effect, is either marginal or centrally visible depending on perspective….

    • I would say that using the 6th Dalai Lama’s poetry in modern pop songs is not a shout-out to classical poetry, per se, but simply an injection of an aspect of Tibetan cultural heritage. All Tibetans would know these verses and know how to sing them, which is to say that they’re broadly popular and familiar; the verses are children’s songs as much as they are beautifully constructed poems written by a divine incarnation.

      On the classical poetry bent, however, Ajia’s “Makye Ame” song is full of beautiful lyrics written in classical style. It seems to me that Tibetan singers can go either way on this – they can sing colloquial songs or write their lyrics in literary style.

      Also, better translation:

      “White crane lend me your wings. I will not fly far. From Lithang I shall return.” (བྱ་དེ་ཁྲུང་ཁྲུང་དཀར་པོ།། ང་ལ་གཤོག་རྩལ་གཡར་དང་།། ཐག་རིང་རྒྱང་ནས་མི་འགྲོ།། ལི་ཐང་བསྐོར་ནས་སླེབས་ཡོང་།། (cha de jung jung kar po// nga la shog tsel yar dang// thak ring gyang ne min dro// li thang gor ne leb yong//) )

      • Okay, so this shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a “shout-out,” but rather a natural extension of literary and artistic expression that is just placed onto newer media…and therefore the fact that, in general, the music that infuses classical poetry should be “taken seriously” rather than be seen as “filler” pandering to the market (I think cynically, for example, of some of the American popular hits that casually throw in references to famous Western love stories or historical events, and all it usually seems is nonsense thrown in to fill an extra rhyme.) So it’s good to know that, at least in your experience and according to what you’ve heard/read, the Tibetan music scene is at least so far able to avoid “selling” its heritage cheaply for mass production, and any pass-produced articles of heritage are still “genuine.” This Makje Ame you referred to is the one done by the female pop trio, correct…? Thanks, I’m definitely keeping this one on my radar, it adds a whole different dimension too..! Anyway, your analysis helps a lot, as well as the translations conplete with the original script for the 6th Dalai Lama’s poetry! Thank you so, so much yet again!!! Would it be possible that I could continue to contact you if I have any other questions…?

  6. The Sherten song was, as Dechen pointed out, in Chengdu. Since you mention how bad Tibetan Hip Hop is (I agree) I do want to share 2 good samples of Tibetan hip hop, one of which was from the same concert, called ཨ་ཕ apha (father): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYYL-hseIRE&feature=related

    Another good Tibetan hip hop song is from 2009 called New Generation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hWNjOfERkU

    On to the Kunga song, Homeland, it’s not that exciting. I can’t read the, but the Tibetan is just two famous poems by Tsangyang Gyatso, the 6th Dalai Lama who was famous (or, some would say notorious) for writing love poetry. The verses are as follows, the first verse reads:

    From the peaks of the eastern mountains
    The clear white moon has risen
    The face of the unborn mother
    Comes again and again to my mind

    And the second verse reads:
    White crane
    Lend me your wings
    I shall not fly far
    from Lithang I shall return

    • A belated thank you, Shira!! I love the links…and it’s excellent to know that this kind of music performance could take place in Chengdu. Dekkji Tsering’s rap is certainly another great example, and New Generation does really seem to hit at the very original nature of rap as a subversive art form and rallying cry…
      I agree, at least based on the Chinese lyrics in the Kunga song, they aren’t the most likely to set off political agitation. 家乡 really is just something of a “love song” to the beauty of where he comes from…which, while perhaps not as political, can also reflect that authentic discussions about identity need not be adamantly political; after all, even if the “Tibet Question/Problem” never existed, it would still be important for artists, scholars, educators, businesspeople, and yes, even consumers, to find different ways of messaging the same interest in continuing a collective identity against the backdrop of globalization and commericial influences.
      I suppose this is where Kunga’s song fits in: with the 6th Dalai Lama lyrics (thank you!), the message can become a little more political, but overall, perhaps it wouldn’t be wrong to see this song as a cultural mediator, as the lyrics are both in Chinese and Tibetan, and therefore are showing to both cultures the value that Gunga as a “representative/ambassador” of Tibetan culture places on his traditional homeland. Possibly…

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