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Tibetan Music

The music of Tibetan peoples, just like the Tibetan culture, is rich in heritage and custom, yet also shows influences from many countries and cultures. India’s Mahayana Buddhism, arriving in Tibet as far back as the 7 th century, as well as dealings with Mongolian and Chinese governments and culture throughout history, has had a great impact on sacred and secular musical practices, styles, and instruments. Even today, one can find outside influences in the contemporary music that is being created by Tibetans worldwide, including variations on traditional and folk music, the introduction of karaoke and rock, as well as the electrification of traditional instruments.

Until the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950, research by Western scholars had been conducted on various types of music found throughout the Tibetan region. Little field research could be carried out after the invasion due to the oppression of Tibetan religion and culture by the Chinese government. Scholars were able to carry out research by visiting Tibetan communities and refugee camps in Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, and India, most notably Dharamsala. During the 1980s China relaxed some of their bans on Tibetan religious and cultural practices, allowing research on folk music to be carried out. Unfortunately, in 1996 the Chinese government once again stifled religious practices, and since then very few scholars have been able to engage in any research in Tibetan regions. Recently, organizations such as Free Tibet have brought worldwide attention to the events that have occurred to the Tibetan people throughout the past 50 years, leading to a universal interest in their religious beliefs, culture, arts and the politics surrounding them.

This pathfinder is designed to provide an introduction to and information about Tibetan music, its various genres, instruments, contemporary Tibetan musicians, as well as concerts held to promote understanding and awareness about Tibetan culture throughout the worldwide community. Either citations of or full text versions of all the articles provided can be found by searching the UB databases and/or electronic journals. All books and recordings listed are held by or on order at the UB Music Library. Dissertations and theses can be found using ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. Websites pertaining to Tibet and its culture are also included.

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