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Streets of Lhasa
Sublime Frequencies

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Back in '03, at the height of the SARS scare, Chinese artist Zhang Jian set off for Eastern Tibet with the idea of recording found sounds. He ended up in Lhasa, "renting" a group of street musicians for the day, taking them to a park and hitting "record." The edited results, smothering this disc, are startling. Using traditional Tibetan instrumentation -- the three-stringed san xian and the bowed, fretless erhu -- as accompaniment, a 3-year-old boy sings with his father while others perform solo, occasionally a cappella, with forcefulness and a focus that is simply meditative. Like the odd stringed music of Indonesia or Mongolia, there are subconscious hints of the blues, but the prominence of the drone runs deeper than anything from the Mississippi Delta. Adding to the aural picture are recordings of everything from the ambience of trains to monks arguing scripture. Streets of Lhasa is undiluted proof that not all of China is hell-bent on destroying Tibetan culture.

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