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Opera (Lhamo)

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Folk songs and dances

A performance of a banter song at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts

Folk songs and dances were an integrated part of people's daily lives. Tibetan folk songs are mainly vocal although they are sometimes accompanied by a bamboo flute, lingbu , the Tibetan lute, dranyen, or a two-stringed fiddle, piwang, and dances are usually accompanied by singing. Often song and dance are so integrated that it is difficult to speak of them separately, and many of my informants referred to ‘songs’ in this inclusive way - as meaning both song and dance together. There were songs for almost every occasion and great diversity from region to region. Many of the songs are connected with religion, and could be described as a form of oral poetry. Songs and dances were performed on a large variety of occasions such as at weddings, or to accompany the drinking of chang, the Tibetan barley beer; courting songs were popular and also songs which accompanied work such as ploughing, harvesting, threshing, building a house or begging

At feasts and celebrations there were often competitions in archery, pony racing and also in singing. In many parts of Tibet, song contests between young men and women were popular: the two groups arranged themselves in rows facing each other and sang alternately, using the same tune, trying to match the opponents' verse with an appropriate reply. Often the songs were a form of flirtation between the sexes and were also referred to as ‘banter songs’, full of allusive meanings and metaphors. (See the photo above).

 

Webpage last updated: 27.03.04
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