Unity and discord: Music and politics in contemporary Tibet

Anna Morcom

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This book examines the role music has played as a political tool in the struggle over Tibet since the 1950s, and exposes some of the consequences of this politicisation on the musical traditions themselves and on Tibetan cultural identity. It draws on interviews with Tibetans brought up in Tibet carried out by TIN researchers, as well as a range of published and unpublished material. The study provides a historic retrospective of the transformation of Tibetan musical culture during the past half-century. Introducing the ideologies that were brought to bear on Tibetan music as Tibet came under the control of the People's Republic of China in 1951, it describes the development of the actual policies implemented until the early 1980s. It then investigates the vibrant Tibetan pop music scene that has emerged since the late 1980s. Further parts of the book analyse in detail the use of music for Chinese state propaganda, as well as the way Tibetans have used music to express dissent and resist Chinese political, social and cultural domination. It examines the explicit messages and subtexts of propaganda, and questions its effectiveness. It also examines the varying forms of Tibetan 'protest songs', the metaphors used for escaping censorship, the state's reactions and its ultimate failure to fully control the feelings and perceptions of Tibetans. Finally, the book addresses the reactions to the extensive change and in particular, sinicisation of Tibetan musical culture in Tibet. Lyrics of many songs presented in the original Tibetan or Chinese as well as in English translation offer a unique insight into contemporary Tibet and its living musical culture.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTibet Information Network
Number of pages220
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2004

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