Illustrations: lower left, clockwise
(1) Dadawa visits in Deqen (Tibetan AD, Yunnan)
(2) Tashi Tsereng’s “Alice’s restaurant” mini-cafe (underground fuison)
(3) Tibetan totemic ‘Damaru’ or shengu (spirit drum) improv
(4) Performance for bar audience by Tashi and friends
(5) Center: album cover for Tashi’s 2008 CD, “Shangrila” (Tib. Ethnic Pref. location of Deqen) album
Emblems of recohesion, infusion, diffusion, babble (meaningless multiplciity), refusion from below and outside seekers. (In progress)
While new-scene surveyers of Chinese “folk”/”op” and related new sound tend to look to offshore performers and their hit albums, a separate, much less visible experimental venue – the eco-folk-cafe – seems to be developing in the so-called “West”, meaning in practice the five provinces ringing the mainland empire where “Mandarin” (Hanyu, guoyu) is a minority language and where communal and or clerical religions and their mythologies have not been wiped out, indeed have gained in prestige in recent years: Tibet (of course: the flagship); Yunnan, Guizhou, Mongolia, and Xinjiang.
This list is one that coheres, and has for a long time: We first see it as a menu for song-and-dance vaudevilles from the early 1960s: we continue (with despair) to see its line-up as the exit song for the National Anniversary (2009), which has been discussed (aroused disgust). But that self-recap oi “performing folk” has long lost its connection with chthonic display cultures.
If the “folk cafe” (eco-cafe?) venue has vitality, it stems from an altogether different narrative. The resurgence (assurgencde) ofthe folk-fusion cafe, matrixed by a new class of self made mistrels, local ventroliquitss who can listen and sing at the same time.
As ever, the appearance and “takeoff” of these local heroes sees to be occurring in spite of or outside of the state’s guidance or aid: there is even competition at the tourist lodge for the next day’s “who shall we go to listen to?/see?” agenda.