China detains Tibetan singer for ‘politically subversive’ song

Singer Kelsang Yarphel, about 37, detained for singing "politically subversive" song at a musical concert.
Singer Kelsang Yarphel, about 37, detained for singing “politically subversive” song at a musical concert.

A well-known Tibetan singer was detained last month in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on suspected charges of singing a “politically-subversive” song at a music concert.

According to information received by TCHRD, Kelsang Yarphel, about 37, was detained at around 14 July 2013 in Lhasa and taken to a detention centre in Chengdu city in Sichuan Province where he remains now.

Sources from Tibet said that in October and November 2012, Kelsang Yarphel and some other Tibetan musicians and singers organised a music concert called Khawei Metok. At the concert, Kelsang Yarphel performed a song titled Bhodpa Tso (Fellow Tibetans) whose lyrics were deemed ‘politically subversive’ by the Chinese authorities. The DVDs made out of the songs performed at the concert were distributed 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 many of which were confiscated.

Videos of Kelsang Yarphel performing the song Bhodpa Tso is available on Youtube.

Before his detention in Chengdu, Kelsang Yarphel was detained and interrogated several times in Lhasa.

Kelsang Yarphel hails from Machu (Ch: Maqu) County in Kanlho (Ch: Gannan) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province. He has many musical albums to his credit such as “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,” “Melody of the contemporary nightingale.” He has participated in many musical 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 the ‘contemporary [Tibet’s] young nightingale’ and as ‘junior Dubey’, a popular senior Tibetan singer who had also been targeted in the past.

 Kelsang Yarphel is the son of Gonpo Tseten and Makho. His wife is named Tsezin Palmo and they have three children.

Below is a translation of the song ‘Fellow Tibetans’ which drew the ire of the Chinese authorities:

“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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