GOSPEL SINGING IN THE VALLEY: AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE HYMNODY AND CHORAL SINGING OF THE LISU ON THE CHINA-BURMA/MYANMAR BORDER
Witzleben, John L
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation is an ethnomusicological study of contemporary musical practices of the Christian Lisu in Nujiang Prefecture in northwest Yunnan on the China-Myanmar border. Among all the changes that the Nujiang Lisu have experienced since the twentieth century, the spread of Protestant Christianity throughout Nujiang’s mountainous villages has existed for the longest time and had one of the greatest effects. Combining historical investigation and ethnographic description, this study uses the lens of music to examine the impact of this social change on the Lisu living in this impoverished frontier region. The Lisu characteristics have never been vital in the music written by the Christian Lisu in Nujiang. Compared with the practices described in other ethnomusicological writings on Christian music around the world that I have read, this absence of incorporation of indigenous musical elements is unusual. There are probably many other cases similar to that of the Lisu, but few ethnomusicologists have paid attention to them. I aim to elucidate this particular scenario of Lisu Christian music in relation to three social and cultural forces: the missionary legacy of conventions; the government’s identification of the Lisu as a minority nationality and its national policies toward them since the 1950s; and the transnational religious exchange between the Christian Lisu in China and Myanmar since the late 1980s. My examination focuses on two genres which the Lisu use to express their Christian beliefs today: ddoqmuq mutgguat, derived from American northern urban gospel songs, the basis of the Lisu choral singing; and mutgguat ssat, influenced by the Christian pop of the Burmese Lisu, with instrumental accompaniment and daibbit dance and preferred by the young people. Besides studying these two genres in the religious context, I also juxtapose them with other musical traditions in the overall Nujiang music soundscape and look at their role in local social interactions such as those between sacred and secular, and majority and minority. This dissertation demonstrates that the collective performances of shared repertoires have not only created a sense of affinity for the Nujiang Christian Lisu but also have reinforced the formation of Lisu transnational religious networks.