Tibet is renowned for its traditions of painting and handicrafts but it also home to similarly rich but lesser-known musical traditions. Music on the Tibetan Plateau is an art form that serves as a vital conduit of oral history and culture. But as the cultural gap widens between generations it has become of crucial importance to assist the people of the Tibetan Plateau in remembering and recording their significant intangible cultural traditions. With this aim, TBF and UNESCO are supporting the Plateau Music Project to increase the technical capacity of local people—particularly Tibetan youth—to collect, archive, and disseminate the traditional music of their regions. The collection and recording of traditional music is being carried out in partnership with the Plateau Cultural Initiative, which collects and records folk songs and dances in over 20 communities across the Plateau using Tibetan student volunteers. The project is also utilizing UNESCO’s experience archiving traditional music and developing systems that allow for the greater dissemination of these materials on the web.
In the fall of 2010, the project welcomed the technical mentorship of ethnomusicologist, Professor Manoleta Mora. Through the completion of two one-week trainings held in Qinghai Province, Professor Mora was able to introduce a team of young Tibetan ethnomusicologists to recording and sound archiving techniques.
Each training had over a dozen participants who benefited from both classroom activities and in-field recording exercises. The in-field portion of the training took place in a rural Tibetan village setting in Qinghai where participants were given the chance to put their new skills into practice by carrying out extensive recording sessions. Students captured different genres of traditional music, including working songs and religious chanting, as each style requires different skills. Students then presented their work in class to learn from each others’ experience.
The community-based, collaborative nature of the project is ensuring that valuable oral traditions are being documented and preserved. But it is also providing younger generations with the opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for the richness of their heritage while providing them with valuable technical skills. The Plateau Music Project is continuing to add to an archive of over 1,000 recorded songs and creating a series of DVD music slideshows to be enjoyed by the current generation and those to come.