Night life in Langma halls of Tibet

09:22, May 10, 2011      

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Photo taken on early May 7, 2011 shows the joyous Niwei Langma Hall in Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. (Xinhua/Wang Ying)

It was 10:30 p.m. in Lhasa. Although most of the shops and restaurants were about to close, Niwei Langma hall was just warming up.

Colorful spotlights illuminated the huge backdrop painting of the Potala Palace on the stage, while delightful Tibetan melody echoed around the hall. Guests were arriving in pairs or groups and quickly filled up the entertainment place.

Dainzhencao, a newcome dancer, was busy dressing herself for the opening performance. She couldn't stop feeling nervous until she made sure her make-up, costumes and decorations were all done, as she just danced this piece for a few times. However, at another dressing room, the experienced dancers were in an easy mood, as some were playing cell phone games, gossiping, and even knitting.

The word "Langma" in Tibetan language means courtly performance, which in the past was only an entertainment for Tibetan traditional aristocracy.

However, the present langma hall eventually evolved into a place of part bar, part folk concert hall and part ballroom, where common Tibetan people go for relaxation and gathering. Since the first such place opened in the mid-1990s, Langma halls soon became quite popular all over Tibet and emerged one after another in a short time.

Today, Niwei is one of the biggest Langma halls in Lhasa. Its owner Gyaebo, who used to be a famous tap dancer in Lhasa, runs four langma halls of his own. All of his langma halls perform traditional Tibetan songs and dances, but in order to cater to different taste of customers, two langma halls emphasize on modern, western dance and even disco, while the others focus on Tibetan "guozhuang" and tap dance.

There are more than 50 actors in Niwei Langma Hall, more than half of whom are at their 20's. They usually work for 5-6 hours per day, and attend two-hour-long rehearsals for 3-4 times a week, but everyone seems to be quite satisfied with the job.

Twenty-year-old Rinzin Dawa, a graduate from Chengdu Normal University in southwest China's Sichuan Province, started working in Niwei Langma Hall after quitting an insurance company about a year ago.

"I really like music and dancing, it is great to work here. I am happy everyday." Rinzin said. After learning and performing in langma hall for one year, he has mastered a dozen of traditional Tibetan dances. Nevertheless, he was even more delighted to have the chance to perform dances in neighboring regions of Lhasa, such as Quxu, Dagaz and Zhanang County, listening acclamations of local villagers.

As for newcomer Dainzhencao, who is from Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwest China's Gansu Province, working in the langma hall even has some spiritual significance, "Living and working in Lhasa, the holy city, I can go on a pilgrimage to the Jokhang Temple whenever I am off work. This would be the dream for my hometown fellows. Only well-being families can make here for worshiping. I am quite lucky." Dainzhencao said with pride.

As the clock finger pointed to eleven, Niwei Langma Hall was almost full of audiences. Ordering several canned beer, chatting with friends, dancing "guozhuang" dance ("singing and dancing in a circle") on the stage with others, local guests are appealed here to enjoy Lhasa's most exciting night life, while curious tourists come to have a sip of the original Tibetan culture.

Ngawang, a Tibetan born in 1970's, who works for a construction company in Lhasa, is one of the frequent customers of langma hall. "This is my favorite entertainment, it offers genuine Tibetan music, dances and drinks," he made a toast to his friend Zhamdu and continued, "I come here at least once a week. It's almost a must for me".

At two o'clock in the morning, strong rhythms of Tibetan music and "guozhuang" dances continued to jolt the Langma hall. The sound of joy would not fade away until 4 to 5 o' clock. However, in less than two hours, the nearby Barkhor Street will greet the first batch of pious pilgrims, awakening the city again.

Amidst fashion and antiquity, modern and tradition, a night of Lhasa has passed.

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