Collections of Tibetan Folk Songs Ready to Be Published
    2013-08-21 17:46:21       Web Editor: Liu Kun

Ma Qinglu is the Director of the Culture Center of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern China's Gansu province. []

In our previous report on the life of Tibetans living in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of northwestern China's Gansu Province, we took you to a local Guozhuang dance contest.

Today we are going to explore how local Tibetan culture enthusiasts are preserving Tibetan folk songs. The Culture Centre of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is going to publish their collection of Tibetan folk songs later this month. Liu Kun has the story.



The Tibetan woman sings about the grand beauty of the plateau: the blue skies, the wandering clouds and the stretches of grasslands. The song serves as a symbol of the maternal love for the grassland that is vast and profound.

The truth is we are losing such beautiful music because many Tibetan folk singers are from an elder generation and they are experiencing difficulties in passing down the culture.

Fortunately, the Culture Centre of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture will soon publish a collection of Tibetan folk songs in a four-book series.

Titled "Gannan Tibetan Folk Music Collection", this series consists of 781 folk songs. The collection is the product of strenuous work over the past 40 years done by the Director of the Gannan Culture Center Ma Qinglu, and his fellow colleagues.

Ma says the collection will be published at the end of this month and adds that they are going to hold a ceremony to mark the occasion.

The four volumes represent different types of folk songs such as toasting music, love songs and dancing music.

Ma says originally he was collecting these folk songs because as a composer he wanted to gain inspiration from folk life.

"I myself am a musician. I graduated from the Music Department of the Northwestern University for Nationalities. I was collecting these folk songs because I needed to gain inspiration from them. I am a local of Gannan and I am deeply interested in local Tibetan folk songs."

Ma never thought that collecting local Tibetan folk songs would become something he would continue doing for over 40 years. During that time, he and his colleagues at the Gannan Culture center have seen themselves travel to every corner of the 7 counties of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

"Whenever I go to Tibetan folk singers, I would bring a Hada and fold 100 yuan in it. Then I gave the Hada and the 100 yuan to him and listened to and recorded his singing. When I came back to the city, I would try to figure out the score of the song and write it down. It was a very difficult job."

Doing something which involves a lot of travel across the mountainous area on the plateau is not an easy job. Ma talks about the difficulties he encountered.

"If you go to Zhouqu county, you will see steep mountains and valleys and the road is difficult to travel. We didn't even own a car back then and had to take the bus from the city center. Sometimes we had to ride donkeys and horses. Also the villages are completely different from each other, either in terms of language or customs."

The hard work of Ma and his colleagues has gained the attention of the government. In 2008, Gannan Tibetan folk songs were enlisted into the National Intangible Cultural Heritage of China. In 2010 and 2011, Ma and his Gannan Culture Center received 400 thousand and 760 thousand yuan respectively from the central government as financial support.

Although Ma and his colleagues are now financially well equipped, he says they have still have other concerns.

"We now have a huge amount of video files and you can't just simply store them on digital disks. The Cultural Bureau of Gansu province has provided us with equipment twice and for both times we received a digital camera, a video camera and a computer. We are now still unable to deal with works related to advanced technology."

Ma says 70 to 80 percent of the folk singers they have met with have already passed away and he is now thinking about preserving and publishing the audio and video resources they have collected.
For China Now, this is Liu Kun in Gansu.


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