Tibetans held an event in solidarity with Tibetan musicians censored in Tibet

SFT held an evening of solidarity with Tibetan musicians censored in Tibet, on Mcleod Ganj, June 21, 2024. (Photo: TPI)

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Dharamshala — On World Music Day, Students for a Free Tibet-India (SFT) held an evening of solidarity with Tibetan musicians censored in Tibet, to show its solidarity with Tibetan singers and musicians who have been arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese authorities for exercising their freedom of expression by singing Tibetan songs, patriotic songs and songs about His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

"In Tibet, expressing cultural identity through music is met with oppression and persecution. Artists like Lo Lo, Kalsang Yarphel, Gegjom Dorjee, Golok Palden, and more face imprisonment for sharing their songs, which speak of resilience, nostalgia, resistance, and the longing for freedom," SFT said.

Rinchen Dorjee, from the SFT, said: "This event is to show our solidarity and honour Tibetan singers and musicians in Tibet, who have sung Tibetan patriotic songs despite numerous restrictions, threats on their lives and imprisonment by the Chinese authorities. We also aims that our young people be inspired by Tibetan singers, as I myself was inspired by singers when I was at school. We also call for true freedom of expression in Tibet".

Tenzin Dawa, director of The Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said, "Seventy-six years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enshrined the right to freedom of opinion and expression. This right is fundamental to living a life of dignity. Suppressing freedom of expression is not just an attack on individuals; it is an assault on the reason itself. Suppressing freedom of opinion and expression, promotes lies and undermines truth. When censors determine what can be said, they stifle knowledge and make all speech suspect."

"On this World Music Day, we come together to celebrate the transformative power of music and honor the courage of those who use their art to speak truth to power. Artists bring attention to issues often brushed aside by those in power, challenging the status quo with their creativity and conviction. As the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley famously said, artists are "the unacknowledged legislators of the world," she continued.

Miss Dawa said, "In Tibet, a growing number of artists and musicians have courageously expressed their people’s dreams and aspirations through their songs. They strive for the right to exist as a distinct culture with their own language, religion, and way of life. Tragically, these artists are routinely targeted by the Chinese government, facing torture and even death in prison for their songs," Miss Dawa explained to gathering at the banned music event.

"In Tibet, writers, poets, intellectuals and artists have become a soft target for the Chinese authorities mainly for their courage and conviction to expose and contradict the official propaganda narratives on Tibet. Since 2008, when Tibetans held widespread protests calling for freedom and return of the Dalai Lama, Chinese authorities have tightened control to ensure that such an event will never happen again and leave no space for Tibetans to express their dissent. The Chinese authorities have implemented highly repressive surveillance and censorship policies that leaves no space for Tibetans to express dissent. Despite these harsh conditions, there has been an unprecedented surge in creative artistic expression and intellectual activism among young Tibetans educated within the Chinese system. These brave individuals dare to speak the truth in a regime that punishes free expression and silences critical voices calling for freedom and justice, challenging China’s grossly distorted narrative," the Tibetan human rights activist said.

"Under a system that enforces self-censorship as a norm, Tibetan musicians like Pema Thinley, Lolo, Chakdor, Phuljung, Derab, Palden, Kelsang Yarphel, Khenrap, Lhundrub Drakpa, and Gegjom have defied tyranny, bravely speaking truth to power and have faced imprisonment for their songs. This evening, we dedicate this gathering to all the known and unknown Tibetans who have been arrested, tortured, disappeared, and unlawfully sentenced for exercising their freedom of opinion and expression" she added.

"As we observe World Music Day, let us commit to standing up and speaking out, both now and in the future, for the victims of repression and for those who cannot sing or speak for themselves," director Dawa concluded.

The SFT has also compiled a collection of songs by Tibetan singers in Tibet, entitled "Banned Music", which features more than 15 Tibetan singers with their lyrics, the featured Tibetan singers including famous singer Tsewang Norbu, who self-immolated in 2022, famous singers Gepe, Lolo, Amchok Phuljung, Gegjom, Tashi Dhondup, Lhundup Drukpa and so on. Most of these songs are banned in Tibet by the Chinese government, but in a free country, Tibetans can sing them freely.

At the " Banned Music " event, Tibetan singers and musicians such as Techung, who sang the Snow Lion of Peace, Kharag Penpa, who sang Rangwang Rangzen (Free Tibet), and other Tibetans such as Rinchen Dorjee and Sonam Tsering sang the Tibetan songs of Tibetan singers in Tibet to show their solidarity with them. They said: "Our voice is not as good as theirs, but our voice represents the voice of the voiceless Tibetans inside Tibet". The event joined by Tibetans as well as many Indians.

"We celebrate the rich tapestry of Tibetan music while standing firm against unjust censorship. And stand in solidarity with these courageous artists as we raise our voices to demand true freedom of expression in Tibet," the organiser of SFT said.