Echoes from Dharamsala: Music in the Life of a Tibetan Refugee Community

Echoes from Dharamsala: Music in the Life of a Tibetan Refugee Community

Echoes from Dharamsala: Music in the Life of a Tibetan Refugee Community

Echoes from Dharamsala: Music in the Life of a Tibetan Refugee Community


""Echoes of Dharamsala takes us deep into exile as a performance space, a refugee home on the diasporic range. The metaphor of reverberation comes very much to life as Keila Diehl bears witness to the emergent politics and poetics of Tibetan rock and roll. Compassionate and modest, yet incisive and unromantic, her writing brings us close to amazingly complicated musical lives being forged in a distinct global conjuncture of modernity, desire, and longing."--Steven Feld, Prof. of Music and Anthropology, Columbia University

""Echoes from Dharamsala is a charmingly written, ethnographically rich, theoretically ambitious book about a Tibetan community in exile. Keila Diehl joined a Tibetan rock band as its keyboard player, and from that perspective gives us a fresh and honest look at the Tibetan refugee experience through its soundscapes. She has presented us with a model of ethnography, which while not shying away from representing the conflicts and contradictions of the community she studied, nevertheless displays a deep political solidarity with the Tibetan cause."--Akhil Gupta, author of "Postcolonial Developments: Agriculture in the Making of Modern India

"Giving new meaning to "participant-observation," Keila Diehl explores the politics and poetics of Tibetan cultural production in exile, in a study that is at once engaging and insightful."--Donald S. Lopez, author of "Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West


It was my first Monday morning in India, and I was not where I was supposed to be. According to the grant proposal tucked in among my papers, I was at the Tibetan Homes Foundation in Mussoorie teaching elementary school children dressed in crisp green uniforms and neckties. in the afternoons, when English classes were finished for the day, I was to be found in the school's music rooms, dance classes, and art studios, easing into what was to be a nomadic year traveling from one refugee camp to another throughout India researching the ways traditional Tibetan arts were being taught to the youngest generation in exile. However, according to my senses—if they were to be trusted at this point—I was at the bus stop in Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and busy hub of the Tibetan diaspora, wondering what to do with myself in a strange place at dawn and feeling very disappointed.

The original plan I had devised deliberately deemphasized Dharamsala because of the tendency of most researchers, journalists, and others interested in Tibetan refugees to focus their efforts entirely on this worldly capital-in-exile and to generalize their findings to Tibetans everywhere. Very little substantial documentary or ethnographic work had yet to be conducted outside Dharamsala, and I was uncomfortable with this trend. There are many logistical reasons for the stubborn centripetal force that attracts everyone to Dharamsala—permits to stay in remote settlements are, for example, difficult to obtain from the Indian authorities for security reasons—and there are other reasons involving the desires and expectations of Western visitors.

My own efforts to spend the majority of my fieldwork time away from Dharamsala were dashed within twenty-four hours of arriving in India because of political instability in the region where I was headed. My husband . . .

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