Posts Tagged ‘Tibetan Culture’

Tibet in Song

August 12, 2012

I saw “Tibet in Song” on a DVD from the Rochester Public Library, which was recommended by my friend Maria Rosa Nachon.  It is a great showcase for the traditional music of Tibet.  At the same time it documents the attempt by the Chinese government to repress the traditional Tibetan culture, including music, and replace it with their own.

Ngawang Choephel, a Tibetan who grew up in the exile community in India, returned to Tibet in 1995 incognito to collect and document traditional Tibetan music.  He was able to sent back many tapes and notes, but was arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison for espionage.  The film describes how he and other Tibetan freedom fighters kept up their spirit by singing traditional songs of their nation.  He was released in 2002 after an international human rights campaign.  He then went to work on this movie, which was released in 2009.

The Chinese government broadcasts and distributes Chinese music, much of which resembles Japanese and American commercial music, and also puts on performances of their fake version of Tibetan music.  But the real Tibetan music survives.  The Tibetan saying is that Tibetan music survives on the mountaintops (because Chinese settlers occupy the valleys).

The feudal Tibetan society as it existed before the Chinese invasion was oppressive in many ways, but this is not a justification for repressing an indigenous culture or bringing in settlers to displace the indigenous population (I admit that, as a white American, I see the parallels to the way the USA treated its indigenous population)

I’ve linked to trailers and short segments that give an idea of  “Tibet in Song.” If you have any interest in world music, or Tibetan religion and culture, I recommend you view this movie in full.  If it is not available from your public library, it can be ordered from Netflix.

Tibet in Song reminds me of another great documentary film, The Singing Revolution, about the struggle of the people of Estonia to preserve their cultural independence and then achieve political independence from a foreign Communist dictatorship.