China / Society

Tibetan monks' music spreads message of peace, gratitude

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-08-10 15:01

LANZHOU - Clad in crimson-colored robes, Trinley Gyatso conducts a group of young Tibetan lamas as they test out a solemn new song for their 300-year-old band.

"The note on the gong should be lower," he instructs one musician.

The monks belong to Labrang Monastery, one of the six great monasteries of the Gelugpa school of Tibetan buddhism. Located in Northwestern China's Gansu province, Labrang is the most important monastery outside the Tibetan autonomous region.

"We practice our music skills on a regular basis. Ahead of important occasions, we practice about eight hours every day," Gyatso, teacher of the Daode'er Music Band.

"Summertime is a busy practice time, because in winter, when the weather is dry and harsh, the instruments may crack if played too often."

Listed as a national cultural heritage in 2008, Labrang's musical tradition dates back 300 years.

Founded in the 18th century, the Daode'er band is usually reserved for important occasions, such as preaching, banquets, religious parades and arrival of distinguished guests.

Using pipes, gongs and flutes specially made for their style of music, the band strikes grand and solemn notes. Currently, it consists of 24members, but its size can change depending on occasions. In recent years, it has reached global audiences, receiving invitations to visit France, the United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium and other countries.

"Our first overseas performance was done in France in 1997. It's a total success," said 73-year-old Gyasto, who has been a band member for around 50 years.

Gyatso said the band has received help from companies to record their music and sell discs online to overseas audiences.

"We pray for happiness, harmony and peace with our music," Gyatso told Xinhua.

The band has been popular among the local Tibetan community.

Tanzin Gonpo, a 31-year-old local resident, has watched the band play since he was young. "The music has special power. It can inspire mercy and benevolence in people's hearts," he said.

Tradition stipulates that band players can only be monks from Labrang.

Every year, Gyatso selects young monks who have knowledge and interest in music. New recruits have to learn to play all the instruments, and also recite religious scriptures to improve their understanding of the music. It will be at least two years before one can stage a performance.

"We have only recruited four new players in the past three years. I hope more younger monks can play and carry on the music tradition," said Gyatso.

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