Tibetan music


Ella's picture
Wed, 02/20/2013 - 14:34 -- Ella

Music is one aspect of Tibetan cultural life in which there is a strong secular heritage. In the urban centres, songs were an important vent for social criticism, news and official lampooning. In Tibetan social life, both work and play are seen as occasions for singing. Even today it is not uncommon to see the monastery reconstruction squads pounding on the roofs of buildings and singing in unison. Where there are groups of men and women, the singing alternates between the two groups in the form of rhythmic refrains. Festivals and picnics are also opportunities for singing.

Tiebt also has a secular tradition of wandering minstrels. It's still possible to see minstrels performing in Lhasa and Shigatse, where they play on the streets and occasionally (when they are not chased out by the owners) in restaurants.

Generally, groups of two or three singers perform heroic epics and short songs to the accompaniment of a Tibetan four-stringed guitar and a nifty little shuffle. In times past, groups of such performers traveled around Tibet, providing entertainment for villagers who had few distractions from the constant round of daily chores. These performers were sometimes accompanied by dancers and acrobats.
While the secular music of Tibet has an instant appeal for foreign listeners, the liturgical chants of Buddhist monks and the music that accompanies cham dances is a lot less accessible. Buddhist chanting creates an eerie haunting effect, but soon becomes very monotonous. The music of cham is a discordant cacophony of trumpet blasts and boom-crash drums-atmospheric as an accompaniment to the dancing but not exactly the kind of thing you would want to slip into the CD player .

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