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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Interview: "You must judge things from your own point of view"

September 1, 2008

Interview with Tibetan singer and social writer Jamyang Kyi
August 28, 2008

Jamyang Kyi was born in a village in Mangra county (Chin: Guinan),
Tsolho Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Chin: Hainan), Qinghai
province, a region Tibetans refer to as Amdo. She graduated in 1984
from the department of teacher training at the Hainan Minorities
Technical School, Qinghai. Since then she has been working for the
Tibetan department of Qinghai TV, as a presenter, translator, writer
and director amongst other duties. In 1993, she took a correspondence
course from the Qinghai Province Institute of Education where she
graduated in 1996. Jamyang Kyi has pursued a parallel career as a
singer and enjoys great popularity. She has developed her own style,
blending traditional and contemporary techniques. She has released
five collections of songs and three VCDs. In addition, she has
dedicated herself to social studies, focussing in particular on
issues related to Tibetan women and children. She has published many
articles on the subject, some of which have been influential in the
Tibetan diaspora. She writes under the pen name Mengzhu (Dream
Pearl), On 1 April 2008, Jamyang Kyi was arrested at her office by
the Qinghai Provincial State Security Bureau. According to sources,
she was believed to have passed on information abroad through a
friend. Later, two computers were seized from her home, and she was
found to have viewed "overseas websites". Jamyang Kyi was charged
with "suspicion of endangering state security". She was bailed on 21
April 2008 after having to pay a substantial fine. The following is
an edited and slightly abridged English version of an interview with
Jamyang Kyi which was conducted by Tibetan writer Namlo Yak on 17
March 2007. The Chinese original version was published on the website
Sacred Fire of Liberty (

Q: Can you briefly explain how your career as a singer developed?

Jamyang Kyi: In the beginning, becoming involved with the Tibetan
song and dance circle was a gradual process. I think my homeland was
an inspiration, as I grew up with people singing and dancing. This
influenced me very much. I was immersed in song and dance when I grew
up and was in a society where people loudly and clearly recited
scriptures everywhere. This environment made me love music. I sung my
homeland's folk songs and, since my childhood, I have never left
music. I looked for every possible way to experience music. I worked
long and hard for music and whenever I lacked the necessary resources
for it, this left me very sad. Let me add that, when I first came to
the Tibetan song and dance circle, I was confronted with many
difficulties. I wasn't comfortable because nobody knew me and
composers would not compose for me. Funds were tight. They did not
easily give us leave from our work unit.

After I left my place of birth, there were lot of gossips and many
people tried to sow discord between me and my family. From 1996, when
I started producing my second collection of songs "Shangri-la", I was
really stressed and couldn't sleep a full night. I had financial
problems; I am not a rich woman, the costs for recording music are
very high and the payments for the recorder [sound engineer] and
music teacher, including their meals every day, were almost
unaffordable. Moreover, as a rule when you want to record you must
pay for the power supply and recording costs up front. So whether you
are in good or bad health, whether your voice is in a good or a bad
condition, you just have to do it. And that was how things were at
that time in my life.

Q: How much are you prepared to give for your artistic style? And
what is the intention behind your arrangements?

Jamyang Kyi: I didn't take the easy way, I wanted to follow my own
path, do something others had not done before, create a completely
new approach. I mastered modern [singing] techniques while using a
core of [traditional] folk songs; I blend both. The singing style of
the simple and proud-hearted people of my homeland does not leave
much room for innovation, but I'm [still] very grateful for [the
heritage] I received from the start from my homeland. Now I have
perfected my art and engaged with many interesting things. I deeply
regret that I had no good opportunities to study music. It is not
something you can hurry; you must take your time to study music.

Q: What laws have the People's Republic of China (PRC) made
concerning arts? Have they made laws directed at artists?

Jamyang Kyi: I am not a specialist in this field. I don't know if
they have created special rules for performing arts or not. However,
I know that when you want to release a song the audiovisual
publishing house will first examine the contents. They check the
lyrics and decide whether you can continue publishing [or not]. If
the words and content pass through [are acceptable] then the
audiovisual publishing house will assign you a number. But none of it
is free; you have to pay the publishing house again for releasing
your song. This is called "Publication through Cooperation".

Q: You are famous as a singer, but you have also had your news job
for 22 years. What changes have you seen in Tibet in your job in the
last 22 years?

Jamyang Kyi: I have no special experience, even though I have had
this news job for 22 years. I said the same thing when I gave a
speech at Columbia University(2). I am not an expert, I have not
studied journalism, but I have had enough experience to know that
things are difficult for the brothers and sisters who work on the
Tibetan language programmes for the TV station. [Still], their
efforts in overcoming difficulties have resulted in us getting
Amdo-language(3) satellite programmes.

But there are many reasons why I don't like the news job. We were
interested in television; from the start, we saw it [as a medium to]
express our nationality, our civilization, our power and our
existence. What changes have I seen in the media in Tibetan areas?
Well, the technical equipment has changed and also the Chinese
officials here have changed a lot. Now they enjoy a more luxurious
lifestyle, before they were very simple. I have seen this with my own eyes.

Q: Today China says it wants more development in Western China
including Tibet. There are two ways of looking at this, it could be
good or it could be bad. How do you think everyday people in Tibet
feel about this development? How will the development affect China?

Jamyang Kyi: Although we can't say the normal people haven't gained
anything from development, at the same time, many rural people,
including people in the TAR in the PRC, are unable to send their
children to university. Due to this fact, we cannot say people have
greatly benefited.
I personally also think that the caterpillar fungus(4) has not
actually benefitted the Tibetan people at all. The income they
receive from it is very small and it pales into insignificance when
you consider the grasslands they have destroyed by picking the fungus.

Q: Tibetans do not have much technological expertise. There are not
many talented Tibetans in this field. Furthermore, they do not have
enough practical experience so I am very worried about the Tibetan
ability to be self-reliant. Do you think my worries are well
grounded? Are they reasonable? How do you think we can turn this
difficult position around?

Jamyang Kyi: Your fears are well grounded. I think it will be hard to
reverse this situation; therefore we should support these kinds of
study and build special Tibetan technology schools. We should
cultivate the specialists that our society needs. It is very
important to do something about this situation.

Q: At the moment, there seem to be two voices of Tibet, one from each
centre of Tibetan activity. Both the PRC, and the international 'Free
Tibet' organisations are talking about Tibet- which do you find more
credible? Which is of more help to Tibet, from inside or from
outside? Aside from politics, what are the most important issues for Tibet?

Jamyang Kyi: I think the countryside needs more schools, every child
should have an education, and every village needs a specialised
technology school. We also need to cultivate and improve the standard
of publications and film and television, literature and art. We need
to create schools in cities where subjects are taught in our mother
tongue, so that children understand their own history, especially if
they are growing up in the cities.

Q: The PRC has signed many international laws which stipulate in
explicit terms that it is our human right to publish critical
content. Do you have any practical experience or ideas about how
Tibetan intellectuals could use this human rights legislation?

Jamyang Kyi: I don't know the law. But I believe there are Tibetan
intellectuals who do know about it.

Q: What do you think about the law that says Tibetan women should
contribute to society, and what about their responsibilities to their
children? Do you think there is a contradiction between these things?

Jamyang Kyi: Our daughters' education is restricted from childhood
and this creates the perception in many women that the society has
not got much bearing on their lives. Consequently, women feel no
connection to issues such as the development of society and the rise
and fall of their nation. We foster this belief in our daughters too.
It is believed that women should only be concerned with rearing their
children, clothing them and feeding them well. Besides this, they
teach their children many traditions that influence women's
personalities and their [sense of] independence. We will need
outstanding mothers and remarkable women, yet we must change the way
women adhere so strongly to past practices and value systems. Tibetan
females are like women all over the world. They need equality and
authority. They need to receive equal education if they are to have
dignity, and so they can nurture excellent sons and daughters. Women
aren't adequately provided for in society. I want this to change, but
it is hard.

Q: I understand, your family is very harmonious, and both husband and
wife are quite successful in career terms. Would you please tell us
the secret of it?

Jamyang Kyi.
Jamyang Kyi: We have paid a high price for this harmony. We grew up
from failure, matured from a 'hard grind', and have had to look for
the best road forward for us. Although our family is not as perfect
as people may think, it's very good that we could keep our individual
personalities and pursue our careers, and have so many positive
[experiences] together over the years. What connects us closely, I
think, might be that both of us have hearts full of love and
compassion for all the wretched people in this world. Family life has
not changed my original personality, nor the lifestyle I pursue. I
think, at the beginning, many women are just like me, they don't want
to change their own personalities and views. But through the trials
of life, many women abandon themselves and unconsciously ruin their
personalities. What's more, they simply look at life from the
perspective of their husbands' views. This is the way of life of most families.

You must judge things from your own point of view, use your own
experience to think about life, and use your own eyes to look at the
world. Never ignore your own experiences; you need to tell others
what you need and what you don't want. Physiological differences mean
men cannot always understand what you need, especially the 'material
women' ubiquitous in today's society. So your husband thinks you are
just a woman. He just brings material satisfaction to you, but never
thinks about your spiritual needs. If you ignore yourself, in the
long term, you will be swept away by the violent wind of destiny.

If you want to be a useful person to our society and our people,
first of all you must be a person with your own dignity, then study
diligently and learn to think independently as much as you can.
Broadly speaking, study is like a weapon [you can use] to protect
yourself. When you use independent thought to reason with others, you
truly find yourself and become an independent person. Thus you have
the capacity to protect your own life and dignity.

Lastly, I would send a word to women: do we use our lives correctly
if we come to this world just to be housewives? And are we not
betraying our great mothers who devoted their lives to us?
1: TibetInfoNet thanks Namlo Yak for authorising publication, as well
as Mr Denis Burke for his collaboration in the preparation of this Update.
2:In March 2006, Jamyang Kyi performed at a Tibetan New Year
celebration and attended a Tibetan symposium held at Latse library
and Columbia University in New York City.
3: One of the three main dialect groups of colloquial Tibetan language.
4: On caterpillar fungus (Tib: yartsa gunbu) see: Yartsa gunbu,
Tibet's underground cash cow

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