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Echoes from Dharamsala

Echoes from Dharamsala: Music in the Life of a Tibetan Refugee Community

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 337
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  • Book Info
    Echoes from Dharamsala
    Book Description:

    InEchoes from Dharamsala,Keila Diehl uses music to understand the experiences of Tibetans living in Dharamsala, a town in the Indian Himalayas that for more than forty years has been home to Tibet's government-in-exile. The Dalai Lama's presence lends Dharamsala's Tibetans a feeling of being "in place," but at the same time they have physically and psychologically constructed Dharamsala as "not Tibet," as a temporary resting place to which many are unable or unwilling to become attached. Not surprisingly, this community struggles with notions of home, displacement, ethnic identity, and assimilation. Diehl's ethnography explores the contradictory realities of cultural homogenization, hybridity, and concern about ethnic purity as they are negotiated in the everyday lives of individuals. In this way, she complicates explanations of culture change provided by the popular idea of "global flow." Diehl's accessible, absorbing narrative argues that the exiles' focus on cultural preservation, while crucial, has contributed to the development of essentialist ideas of what is truly "Tibetan." As a result, "foreign" or "modern" practices that have gained deep relevance for Tibetan refugees have been devalued. Diehl scrutinizes this tension in her discussion of the refugees' enthusiasm for songs from blockbuster Hindi films, the popularity of Western rock and roll among Tibetan youth, and the emergence of a new genre of modern Tibetan music. Diehl's insight into the soundscape of Dharamsala is enriched by her own experiences as the keyboard player for a Tibetan refugee rock group called the Yak Band. Her groundbreaking study reveals the importance of music as a site where official and personal, old and new representations of Tibetan culture meet and where different notions of "Tibetan-ness" are being imagined, performed, and debated.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93600-3
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Note to the Reader
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)
  7. Introduction: Theory at Home and in The Field
    (pp. 1-31)

    This book is concerned with the performance and reception of popular music and song by Tibetan refugees living in north India. It strives to convey how Tibetans hear the complex array of sounds that make up the musical life of their community-in-exile and explores the relationship they have with these sounds. The musical “soundscape”¹ (Schafer 1977) most Tibetan refugees live in includes traditional or revitalized Tibetan folk music, Tibetan songs and music perceived to be “Chinese” or “sinicized,” Hindi film songs, Western rock, reggae and blues, modern Tibetan music made in exile, and Nepali folk and pop songs.² The ways...

  8. 1 Dharamsala: A Resting Place to Pass Through
    (pp. 32-56)

    Dharamsala is both a place of rest or refuge (the meaning of its Hindi name) and a place to pass through, both a destination and a place one must leave to fulfill the very promise of pilgrimage. Historically and today, this north Indian hill town has existed as both a center in the periphery and as the peripheral edge of the center for a variety of groups of people who have needed, for various reasons, to pause here. As both a center and a limen, Dharamsala is perhaps best considered as a crossroads, a focused but misplaced point through which...

  9. 2 “There Is a Tension in Our Hearts”: Constructing the Rich Cultural Heritage of Tibet
    (pp. 57-100)

    A polished white Ambassador sedan pulls up in front of one of the Indian tourist hotels in McLeod Ganj, and a young bride and groom step out of the car. Relatives help straighten their bright clothes and readjust their furlined brocade hats, while the British travelers having tea on the front lawn crane their necks around leggy rosebushes to see what is happening. The wedding guests are all inside the hotel’s dining room listening to a new cassette of Tibetan rock songs and chatting over sweet tea as they wait for the ceremony to begin at 1:30 P.M., the auspicious...

  10. 3 Taking Refuge in (and from) India: Film Songs, Angry Mobs, and Other Exilic Pleasures and Fears
    (pp. 101-143)

    The sparkling lights and raucous firecrackers of the Indian holidayDiwalifilled the vast dark valleys below Naddi Gau during the Yak Band’s final rehearsal before its long-awaited public concert in November 1994. As the band’s new keyboard player, I had spent all afternoon, right through twilight, on the flat cement roof of the Yak Shack waiting for the electricity to come on and making posters to advertise the next day’s show. “The Yaks Come to Slow Rock You!” “Yaks Live in Concert!” Ngodup, the thin young drummer, proved himself particularly gifted at drawing the band’s logo, the English word...

  11. 4 The West as Surrogate Shangri-La: Rock and Roll and Rangzen as Style and Ideology
    (pp. 144-174)

    One afternoon I took a cab up to Naddi where the Yak Band lived and found they had their equipment set up on the front porch for a change. As usual, they had put an incredible amount of work and money into that evening’s party—the furniture had been rearranged to make a banquet room, lots of food and drink had been prepared, and boys from the nearby TCV school had been hired to help. That night we jammed like we had never jammed before, largely thanks to the presence of “Jackpot,” a French friend of the band’s, who is...

  12. 5 The Nail That Sticks Up Gets Hammered Down: Making Modern Tibetan Music
    (pp. 175-206)

    From the moment I arrived in Dharamsala, I kept a binder of original Tibetan song lyrics and music that eventually included quite a remarkable collection of compositions, some recorded, some popular, most the result of private moments of creativity never shared before. I hoped to publish a songbook in tandem with my dissertation (a project that unfortunately remains on my “to do” list). Despite the fact that by the end of my stay in Dharamsala the binder’s rings had broken and its contents—everything from tidy computer printouts to photocopies of squiggly handwriting to notes on napkins—were spilling out...

  13. 6 “Little Jolmo Bird in the Willow Grove”: Crafting Tibetan Song Lyrics
    (pp. 207-233)

    Jampa Gyaltsen, who was at the time of my fieldwork a fiftyeight-year-old official astrologer for the Tibetan government-in-exile, seemed quite happy to have company on a Saturday morning when Tsering Lhanzom and I finally stopped by to interview him after we had had many interesting conversations on the roadside. The professor (playfully nicknamed “Asterix” by his friends) was apparently unmarried, so he lived alone in rooms provided by the Medical and Astrological Institute, where he taught. Notably, his living space was one of only a few I visited during my stay in Dharamsala that housed bookshelves full of books....

  14. 7 A Peek Through Ragged Tent Flaps and Heaven’s Door: Concerts That Rupture and Bond
    (pp. 234-262)

    Having toured the different sounds that contribute to the musical environment of Dharamsala, and the Tibetan refugee community more widely, this final chapter focuses on the public concerts that uniquely bring many of these sounds together in a single place and time. These events—generally referred to as “rock concerts” because of their amplified technology and inclusion of Western music, although they always include modern Tibetan, Indian, and Nepali music as well—are considered here as profoundly revealing cultural performances in which many of the social dynamics and community-wide challenges raised throughout this book are enacted. Loud evening concerts offer...

  15. Conclusion: Echoes, Cycles, and Their Implications
    (pp. 263-270)

    One Sunday in March, during the slow weeks afterLosarwhen a reluctance to let go of the holiday season and resume the busy pace demanded by offices, shops, and schools hangs heavy in the air, Tsomo and her husband invited me to an all-day mah-jongg party at their government-owned apartment down the mountain. They had told me to come at 11:00 A.M., so I got there around 1:00. After six months in Dharamsala, I had learned that being two hours late was usually about right for this sort of event. A few women were gathered on the beds in...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 271-288)
  17. Glossary
    (pp. 289-290)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 291-308)
  19. Index
    (pp. 309-312)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 313-313)