March 30, 2005

The Streets of Lhasa

From the excellent Sublime Frequencies label, comes this very different glimpse into Tibetan music; one that eschews the familiar monastic sounds of singing bowls and deep-throated chants, and ventures (as per the title) on to the streets of the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, where itinerant musicians from the countryside perform for the meager sum of one kuai per song (roughly equivalent to 10 cents). Unlike the stately music of the temples, this is much rawer fare, rooted in wailed vocals and roughly hewn melodies played on either the erhu or san xian.

The recordings on this album were made in 2003 by Zhang Jian of the Beijing music/art collective, fm3, who typically hired the street musicians for 50 kuai a session (plus free food and beer), set them up in a quiet park, then let them work through their repertoire. In the process, he managed to capture some pretty memorable performances, like this father and son duo. The parental half of the group sings and saws away on an erhu, while his son bellows all over the melody like a mad thing. Priceless stuff.

As always, the album can be purchased through either the Sublime Frequences site, or from Aquarius Records.

Posted by Warren at March 30, 2005 12:43 AM | World