Singing as an artform is a much loved pursuit for many Tibetan youth and has become an aspiration for them.However, in the recent times, the Chinese government has begun cracking down on the meaning and lyricists of some songs, in what is seen as imposing restriction on musical artists.
[Posted T.T Tibetan site 11 May 2023] Cracking down on prominent Tibetans including writers and intellectuals under the larger goal to suppress Tibetan voices through nefarious means has been happening with the spot light now on musical artists. The Chinese authorities have launched investigation in probing the identity of lyricists of particular songs, the meaning of the lyrics and also checked private messaging-apps of singers in Sershul County and in some places in Qinghai Province.
A source told Tibet Times that in the beginning of the month, authorities investigated the identity of some lyricists and sent out warnings to singers and lyricists in Sershul County. The same restrictive policy is being implemented in at least one region in Qinghai Province, he further added.
The same source also said that since songs and music have a large following and have become a key medium to connect with the Tibetan youth, Chinese government has banned songs that espouse unity and identity among Tibetans while allowing songs that have mundane meanings and songs that are sung in the fusion of Tibetan and Chinese language.
The biggest indicator of the Chinese government’s heavy-handedness on censoring music and songs is its heavy influence during the official performances on Tibetan New Year or Losar. The performance of Chinese songs have increased drastically while number of Tibetan songs have reduced. Also, the meaning and lyrics of the songs often eulogise the Chinese communist party, its military prowess, developmental success stories while songs during Losar performances in Utsang, Dotoe and Domae Provinces seldom espouse themes of Tibetan identity like protection of language and culture.
The Chinese government has cracked down, imprisoned and persecuted Tibetan singers that have praised His Holiness the Dalai Lama and urged unity among Tibetans. Last year Tibetan singer Tsewang Norbu self-immolated in an apparent protest against the repressive Chinese rule in Tibet. Last year on October 13 in Golog region, five Tibetans including singer Derab and his lyricist were detained and interrogated for a prolonged duration. The fate of the lyricist and one other youth is unknown at the moment.
In June 2020, Tibetan singer from Nagchu region’s Diru County, Lhundup Dakpa was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of criticising the Chinese government in one of his songs. In June 2022, lyricist Khando Tsetan was sentenced to seven years in prison and singer Tsego to three years in prison on charges of ‘destabilising the country’ and ‘endangering state secrets’ for a song that praised His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Similarly, Tibetan singers Pema Rigzin, Amchok Phuljung and Choegon have also been detained by the Chinese government over the years.