June 6, 2009

Caste preservation of art forms

The Lo Monthang community leans on the lower castes to preserve music and dance traditions.  Tashi Tsering retains the Kha Lu repertoire.  His eldest daughter devotes substantial time to teaching the Lo Monthang Youth Club traditional dances.  Reputedly, Tashi Tsering's son and a group of his friends were talented musicians.  Before they left the area to earn cash in American army camps in Iraq, they were the up-and-coming adherents of local cultural preservation.

Tashi Tsering is the descendent of a professional musician caste -- entertainers in royal courts that can be traced back to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and even Persia.  But as Tashi Tsering's lineage became further removed from its origins both by geography and time, evidence points to low-caste musicians resorting increasingly to begging through musical offerings.  The cultural mechanisms that compelled locals to be sympathetic to the musicians' plight are unclear.  Perhaps religious teachings of compassion and stories of the Buddha as a beggar led the Loba in Lo Monthang to donate to singers.  But of interest today is that Lobas are now depending on low caste cultural perservators to rekindle old traditions.

Whether this will lead to a restructuring of caste dynamics for future generations is unclear.  The demographics of Lo Monthang are certainly in transition as the upper caste, the Bista clan, increasingly sends family members abroad for work and education.  This restructuring gives the Biki caste -- the low caste, to which Tashi Tsering belongs -- a larger presence and more local opportunity.  Tashi Tsering's daughters are now respected for their cultural knowledge.  They have also initiated their own local businesses, something, I was told, would not have been feasible twenty years ago.  

Surely the emphasis and market for cultural preservation will give artists increased opportunity from the foreign community working in Lo.  The extent to which these opportunities will change local perceptions of social hierarchy is uncertain yet merits close attention.

1 comment:

  1. In western country, or even in the small town, all over the world people respect musicians , singers. But people of Lomanthang or Lo does not respect him even he is very very important person for Lo culture. Pelple hates him. Some years ago his son used to be a drummer and tashi used to be singer and musician. His son was not happy with what he was doing because people of lomanthang or LOBAS hate him and then he stoped playing drum. He is very talented guy , he is guitarist, singer, he also knows how to play tibetan violin (I think he is the only person who knows violin). People from lower caste in Lomanthang are very talented in music.These people used to perform OPERa DANCE also but due to financial problem and some internal problem this tradition also fade away. And also they did not get any support from anyone. After the death of Tashi Tsering people will feel his absence and people will start to play his song , music from CD in important ceremony! hahahaha ,,,,,,,, I think we should do somthing to conserve his song and music. We should encourage and respect these people. CASTE SYSTEM OF NEPAL WILL RUIN NEPAL.