South of Tibet: Dadawa, Angel-voices, and Prof. He in Hindi-land

The album title is actually (in Chinese) 如来如去, a reference to the line 如幻如化净本空, 如来如去性本净 from the Tathāgatagarbha Sūtra – like most of Buddhist lyricisms, useless to translate, better to chant.

Yet something strange has occurred in terms of audience reception:: this most truly ecumenical of anything the team has produced and surely its most elegant success in recombinations has more or less flopped in the :”Big” crossover markets of the US and China…. smile as the jurors might, it hasn;t caught fire.

 

**** Complexity and lack of MTV as negatives…

(as of May 27 2012 3 1/2 years

01.天外天 90
02.达塔伽达 0
03.冥想 0
04.虚空之心 0
05.色界 465
06.树有风 803
07.四方之舞 0
08.如来如去 169

Illustration: From the 2008 album
title: Tathagata: the Tathagata Sutra (Chinese rulai ruqu); He Xuntian; He’s 2002 album Paramita.

*****

Unlike Tibet Mongolia and Xinjiang, there is no SE Asia or India derived diasporic musicianship in China, either at the CD level or on TV: by contrast: as we have seen, Tibetans from Yunnan and Gansu and W. Sichuan are densely represented in the ranks of fusion singers and have massively invaded the airwaves and screensets of TV. Mongols from Qinghai have also recently made their presence known, as (since long ago), Korean exiles of Yanbian have been immersed in perpetuating or renewing traditional “Korean-folk” dances.

Ditto for the “hardware”. While fiddle and guitar cousins or simulacra move across the MXT grasslands, perhaps also drumming formulae and dance as well, none of these link S. Asian folk or street music into China: their sounds are thus utterly alien, a fact of course cheering for He Xuntian who makes and is constantly expanding his arsenal of unknown sound machines and drum rhythms .
India, Nepal, and indeed SE Asia have no such extraterreritorial vanguard….

If the southernness of their musicial experiments is alienating, yet our undaunted pair of explorers have managed to find song flows and other sounds with such alacrity that we hear several improvizations on the spot. Improvisability in turn means there is a reservoir of untapped vocabularies probably far richer than anywhere in non-Sinophone China…. and promisive one yet another benefit: folk musics from Nepal is, like their written languages, highly interactive with those of Tibet, as also probably lyrics and legends: so there is an opportunity here for rivalling or pushing aside the flood of intra-Tibetan singers and pop-ensembles who, in any case, are a good deal shorter in modular vocabularies (same of course for Uighur and Kazakh folk-voice of course as well). Politics here thus perhaps shares a seat with record company offshore promotions: India and Nepal are English speaking loci, even if their song lyrics are not: thus mastery of their music inside of or by Chinese world musical athletes creates a bypass for new voices to reach “the sea” that carries easily over and beyond Tibet.

(In passing but also Tibet-related: “Folk” turns out ever so often to have elite and extra-linguistic roots, is a stepchild or orphan of Palace or Court troubadour music and “temple” dance styles, still in one way or another imitated and remembered, “hand-me-downs” from alien intruders, ones since replaced by new and more recent alien intruders. What is so unique – not necessarily a blessing – about Tibetan (as also Yi and Hmong) music-dance culture is its lack of any such pedigree or input. It is only where the afterprint of Islam/Mongol conquest and legend remains that one finds such things as defined modes, modulations, improv. vocabularies, professionalized dance repertoires with virtuosities embedded.

Amdo-Qinghai, because once Mongol- (Dzungar or Kazakh) occupied, still have “dictionaries” of modes, melodies, legends intertwined with song, and, rarest of all, professionalized orchestral music also bundled into molds for this or that occasion. But is the much exhibited Gesar tale-telling poesy really an equivalent, a modular package gifted from above, branching wide once in lower terrain? It is surely a relic of someone’s conquest of somewhere, but there is nothing to tie the narrative to any historic Monarchy in that country …

This is of course a mere speculation, but let’s see what the venture into sub-Himalayan terrain (May 2006: Nepal, Butan, and India) has to offer: its northern mountainous ridgecountry terrains a favorite stomping grounds for Warrioring, the home of Timberlaine… (Tamerlaine) … where Mughal/Persian court arts prospered: its downmountain valleys teeming with performance-caste caravans or soloists folk-professionals in the business of brokering song from everywhere else where once had presided indigene Kingdoms….

(and where elsewhere)… a deja vue of DFGWT zhang jian and Dao Meilan but not music…)Odissi, Kathak, Bharatanatyam)

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A another prefatory: the embracing and internal re-propagation of Hindic performance trads had alraedy swet across the PRC twicce before: first during the Bandung cultgure-bloc experiment of 55-66; second during the first-blush years of Deng’s Glasnost, when (paradoxically) 2 major dance-drama films were expensiveoly produced to redispplay Chinese mastery of “Western Gate” Dzungar (DH) and “Thai” finger-dance arts and msuic, as palatial a susbset of stage arts as as could be imagined… on the shelf to readfrfim Uzbek (Dunhuang) and Dai/Tailve palace palace-dabnce,

(though there were followups embvraced Tibet as in Wencheng gongnzhu and Hong Hegu and Pricne of the Himalays), have never been serious about and even (with soe strain) todo the same for Tibet… in…)

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****

But let us watch the process, as documented in Dadawa’s 2006 tour of N. India (Benares/Delhi) and Kashmir, Bhutan and Nepal.

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