China detains Tibetan singer for “politically subversive” song

Tibetan Singer Kelsang Yarphel is seen in an undated file photo

Tibetan Singer Kelsang Yarphel is seen in an undated file photo. File photo/TCHRD Handout

Tibet Sun newsroom

MCLEOD GANJ, India, 9 August 2013

A Tibetan song has drawn the ire of the Chinese authorities, who have detained the singer for singing a “politically-subversive” song at a concert, an exile Tibetan group said.

Kelsang Yarphel, about 37, was detained on 15 July in the Tibetan capital Lhasa and taken to a detention centre in Chengdu city in Sichuan Province where he is detained, according to Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD).

It is reported that in October and November 2012, Yarphel and some other Tibetan musicians and singers organised a concert called Khawei Metok during which he sang Bhodpa Tso (Fellow Tibetans). The Chinese authorities deemed the lyrics to be “politically subversive”.

The DVDs made from the songs performed at the concert were distributed widely in Tibetan areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces. A month later, the Chinese authorities enforced a ban on the sale and distribution of the DVD, and confiscated many of them.

Videos of Kelsang Yarphel performing the song “Bhodpa Tso” is available on YouTube.

Yarphel was detained and interrogated several times in Lhasa before this detention in Chengdu.

Kelsang Yarphel is from Machu (Ch: Maqu) County in Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province. He has many musical albums to his credit, among them “The Homeland of the Gesar of Ling”, “Thunder of the Dragon”, “Dragon’s Thunder Welcomes the Spring”, “Yearning of the Snow-mountains for the Dawn”, “Modern Tibetans”, “The Famous Blue-Turquoise Dragon”, and “Melody of the Contemporary Nightingale”. He has participated in many concerts organised by both government and private organisations. His popularity among the Tibetan public can be gauged by the fact that Tibetans refer to him as “contemporary [Tibet’s] young nightingale”. He has also been called a “junior Dubey”, after a popular senior Tibetan singer who has also been targeted by authorities in the past.

Following is a translation of the song Fellow Tibetans

Fellow Tibetans
We must learn Tibetan
Speak Tibetan
To learn them is our responsibility

Fellow Tibetans
We must unite
We must unite
All the three traditional provinces of Tibet must unite

Fellow Tibetans
We must build courage
Thinking about the years and months of joy and suffering
We must build courage

Fellow Tibetans
We must allow joy and suffering to speak up
Thinking about Tibet’s future path
We must search for the path

Fellow Tibetans
We must uphold our patriotism
Upholding patriotism
Let’s march forward
Together, shoulder-to-shoulder


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