The Music of Tibet

in high altitudes
song and dance keeps out the chill
lu notes resonate

Kim M. Russell, 15th August 2018

My response to Carpe Diem #1497 Music of the Himalayan Mountains, Tibet.

In this episode we are off to Tibet. Chèvrefeuille tells us that Tibet has a rich history in music. He says that the Lama Mani tradition – the telling of Buddhist parables through song — dates back to the 12th century, when the songs were performed by wandering storytellers, who travelled from village to village.

Tibetan ‘street songs’ were a traditional form of expression that provided political and social commentary, and satire. As song lyrics in Tibet usually contained stanzas of 4 lines of 6 syllables each, the lyrics could be easily adapted to almost any melody.

Secular Tibetan music has been promoted by organizations like the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, which specialized in the lhamo, an operatic style, before branching out into other styles, including dance music like toeshey and nangma, which is popular in the karaoke bars of Lhasa. Another form of popular music is the classical gar style, which is performed at rituals and ceremonies. Lu are songs that feature glottal vibrations and high pitches.


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