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A friend to endangered music

Catherine Grant’s quest to sustain the world’s musical genres, from yak hymns to funeral songs

By Gal Beckerman

AUGUST 17, 2014

In the highlands of Tibet, for centuries, it was commonplace for farmers to sing a particular kind of song to their yaks. The melodies were intended to coax the yaks to produce more milk, praising the sheen of their coats and the beauty of their horns. The particular combination of tones was said to have special powers to relax the yaks and get the milk flowing. Today, only a handful of old-timers still remember those songs; younger herders simply don’t learn the music, distracted by the pop songs coming in over the radio. And when the old-timers die, most likely the songs will die as well.

Seng Norn (right) with students of kantaoming, a Cambodian funeral music genre. Photo: Ian Kirkland, June 2014.

Seng Norn (right) with students of kantaoming, a Cambodian funeral music genre. Photo: Ian Kirkland, June 2014.

Read the full article on the Boston Globe ‘Ideas’ site.

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