A kind of Manifesto to/for their latest and best album qiantu/Migration(s) (rel 2011 read/chanted by sole female solo singer Daiqing Tana) helps us quite a bit in gaining insight into how and why their VERY audible TM/HKU conversance came into being.
“When mountains are split with painful wounds
When the Earth [is] bleeding with black tears
My feet are aching, standing on this drying land.
But have you ever heard about the pastoral troops (tribes!)
They have been migrating in the grassland for thousands of years
They are as free as eagles as humble as grass and as quiet as mountains
Leaving not any damage they live on the temperate grassland
Ask who is the one never satisfied
Who is the one awakening the power of destruction
Think: where can we go
Where can we find-back (sic) the lost heaven
It reads/sounds at first like yet another chapter in the history of “green” eco-romanticism [it indeed is]. Not unlike in its trajectory (how it came into being) the trail that carried Amerindian resistance forward (still does): from a kind of unifying theo-revivalism across tribal lines, to war, dispersal (into reservations = exclaves), and then to a unifying but dispersed environmentalism embedded in a current, much less “orientalist” seasonal theatre.
Yawn, at least for the “Han” and hardcore cultural-nationalists who are astride the seats of power: something for global environment conferences with no real power but much eclat to tut-tut about. But not for the community of “world music”. Or UNESCO.
In her “Wounded Knee” outpouring we have an endo-generated (not imposed by appeal) solution, which she/they encode as “migration” – (tribal) migration. But a motif that is allegorical or symbolic, a call to CULTURAL action I think, since in practical terms tribal migration is no longer an option – as indeed is also the case for “tribe” itself.
Behind the call for some sort of “moving on/moving together” of course a scarcely concealed element of rage and resentment against the Han Chinese and their MegaState: Ahab-like in its search for a Wild Nature to bleed for mineral resources and dissect (parcel) into casually discarded ground(s) sacrificed to the building of an ever-expanding transport grid completing the long trek from Urumqi (Xinjiang) to Lhasa. (On this more below). But the advocated Migration is much more than forced dispersal, diaspora.
For a Mongol-anchored audience, it (qiantu/migration) also has a positive/proactive resonance, or even several such resonances. First, it is zoological reality: seemingly all species equipped for the work enact piston-like seasonal rotations north/south or, on a much greater scale, move in masses of millions east-to-west pushed by dearth and lured by plenty. (Who better qualified to recite this poem than a Mongol or (possibly) Torghut blood…) In the album cover below (2012). Tana … seems to be demonstrating Buddhist mercy for all living things, but the Butterfly is a good deal more than an allegory for eco-vulnerbality: it is a great seasonal traveler and a ceaseless cycler of bodily form – from caterpillar to moth to egg and over again.