Tibet: Monks of the Sera Je Monastry

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COMPOSERS: Traditional Tibetan chant
LABELS: Amiata
WORKS: Tibet: Monks of the Sera Je Monastry
PERFORMER: Monks of the Sera Je Monastry
CATALOGUE NO: ARNR 0598

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As a defiant assertion of Tibetan music’s survival in exile, this is pure propaganda, and it comes with a lavish little book in which the history of Tibetan culture, and China’s jack-booted repression of it, is retold with photos going back to the 1930s. Sera Je was one of three great monastic universities destroyed by the Chinese, and is now in exile in India, where its abbot gladly welcomed in the Italian recording team for this CD.

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They’ve done a beautiful job, evoking the atmosphere of prayer so vividly we might be among them. The ritual starts with openthroated growls (with hovering overtones) which slowly rise in pitch, accompanied by excited blasts on trumpets and oboes over a tinny miasma of cymbals, bells, and shells. Since this musical style – illustrated in the notes with a ravishing example of Tibetan notation – has remained unchanged for ten centuries, it provides us with a privileged glimpse of an entranced other world. Michael Church