Thursday, November 14, 2013

Tibetan Exiles in Dharamsala

Of all the readings, we've read thus far in class. I have been most intrigued by the ones regarding the Tibetans in exile in Dharamsala, India. The Tibetans seem to have a rather different viewpoint on their culture and how it can evolve amid other cultures in the modern world. From our previous class readings, we've learned about music-making being either presentational, participatory, high fidelity or studio audio art. Additionally, we've learned about how different symbolisms, icons, and indices are found in music in order to relate and speak to the listeners experiences and background. All these relations to music have been utilized in various ways. Some of them in religious or celebratory festivals, political movements and/or everyday life.

The Tibetans from my personal point of view don't really seem to fit the molds of what we've discussed in regards to music. It seems as though they solely are fixated on the fact that they have been exiled and their country placed under Chinese control. The traditional dances and music making discussed in the book provided no insight into whether it was primarily presentational or participatory. From what I could gather, I would assume it is primarily presentational. The author only talked about traditional dances or music being performed primarily by the TIPA (Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts). There were some instances of participatory dance and music-making in the beginning chapters of the book with the revival of the chang ma at weddings and other festivals. Aside from this one discussion, I didn't feel that music making was highly involved in their lives.

They sought desperately to gain as much attention as possible to their cause to regain Tibet. They were able to do that through music to some extent, but most of the attention they received was a result of famous individuals outside of Tibet such as the Beastie Boys and Richard Gere learning of Tibetan culture and doing their own promotions of the cause. From the readings, if one was to talk to Tibetans in Dharamsala, you would hear mixed reviews on their own culture and the cultures surrounding them in Dharamsala. The disparity exists primarily between the youth and older generations of Tibetans in exile as well as newly exiled individuals from Tibet.

The youth feel stifled by older generations because according to them, allowing Western music or Hindi songs to accompany traditional Tibetan music is blasphemous. I feel, the youth see Western styles and Hindi music as a better means of relating and expressing their feelings of disparity than traditional music. It is hard for me to understand how literally the Tibetans have exiled themselves in Dharamsala. Despite even the Dalai Lama being receptive of broadening artistic expression, Tibetans cause an uproar whenever changes are proposed, and they quickly shoot the ideas down. It's almost as if they want to remain "isolated in the mountains" forever. As a result, Tibetans over the years have spread out from Dharamsala to other parts of India and other countries where they can more openly express their interest in other music types.

It's saddening to see those that have tried to incorporate rock 'n' roll and other music types into the Tibetan culture be met with such resistance. Audiences boo and ridicule those that try to make a name for themselves through music. According to most people, exuberant amounts of money should not be gained from the Tibetan cause. The Yak Band is a perfect example of the hardships that accompany being a non-Traditional musician in Tibet. The Yak Band traveled some for shows and even released a recording but sadly never made it big. The one glimmer of hope that I found in this book was the Yak Band performance that took place for the Dalai Lama's sixtieth birthday celebration. The audience was receptive to the rock 'n' roll song "Knocking on Heaven's Door" unlike other times when Western music is played in their presence. It makes me hopeful that one day Tibetans in exile will allow their music to be modernized. I would hope that the Tibetans would learn from history and the changes that can result from using music in a proactive manner. I'm fearful that if Tibetans don't become more open-minded, their fear of losing their cultural identity will actually come true.

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