Ethnic Music Tests Limits in China

The New York Times reports on how tensions between Beijing and China’s ethnic minorities play out on the music scene:

A growing roster of alternative performance sites and music festivals has allowed Chinese ethnic minority musicians like the members of Hanggai to enjoy an unusual degree of financial security and cultural prominence.

But in China, where the central government maintains a firm grip on popular media and cultural events, minority musicians walk a fine line: play it safe and they may lose their audience; go too far and they may lose their stage.

About 8 percent of China’s population, or more than 100 million people, belong to 55 state-designated ethnic minority groups. Centuries of isolation and autonomy have made many of them linguistically and culturally distinct from the majority Han.

But over the past 30 years, a variety of social, economic and political forces have pushed them toward assimilation into mainstream Chinese culture. The lure of well-paid work in the cities draws young people away from traditional village life. Television and popular music have eclipsed traditional forms of entertainment.

Watch Hanggai perform and check out more of their music on their YouTube page:

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