High Peaks Pure Earth has translated an interview conducted by a Tibetan journalist over WeChat with Lhasa-based rapper Lobsang Jigme, known under his artist’s name “Mr J” (also known as Mr Jin).
Mr J is one of the best known Lhasa-based rappers and has been making music for more than 5 years. Many of his tracks are on his Douban site: http://site.douban.com/luosjm/
Although not in the original WeChat interview, Mr J’s football inspired music video “Ball Skills – Rocking the Land of Snows” is embedded in the post below as well as an audio of his early track “It’s All Pointless”.
Thank you to Tricia Kehoe whose Twitter feed often points us towards interesting content (including this interview!). Thank you also to Dinah Gardner for the translation from Chinese to English!
“Who is Mr J?”
Interview with Tibetan Rapper Lobsang Jigme
Journalist: Why do you like rap? And out of all the types of music out there, why did you choose rap?
Mr J: Because of EMINEM, because I like music, and also because I’m tone deaf but I have a bit of a sense of rhythm.
Journalist: When you were at university what made you think of writing the track, Mother’s Butter Tea?
Mr J: Actually, I’ve had the idea since high school because when I was at boarding school I really missed home and I was getting more and more nostalgic about the butter tea my mother made. So I wanted to use a song like this to express how much we Tibetan kids studying in other parts of China missed home; instant butter tea was no cure for our homesickness!
Journalist: What did you think after you found out how popular this song had become?
Mr J: I felt that my work had gained recognition and I wanted to carry on.
Journalist: Everyone says that the background track to “Ball Skills – Rocking the Land of Snows” has a special feeling about it; that it’s got a unique rhythm. What do you think?
Mr J: The singing style in “Ball Skills – Rocking the Land of Snows” is just incredible; it was a real test and challenge for me. After the video came out everyone said it was pretty good, so now I’m doing a full version. Let’s talk about it again once it’s released.
Journalist: “Cho Cora Mindug” (It’s All Pointless) got mixed reviews. What do you think about this song?
Mr J: This song is a record of my life at university and expresses some of my real thoughts. If someone doesn’t like it there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m tone deaf so I can’t sing that kind of alpine grassland yalasuo style that everyone likes.
Journalist: Lots of people out there want to keep listening to your songs, so what are your plans for the future? When do you think your next album will come out?
Mr J: I’ll keep making music until people are sick of it. I don’t want to release another album. I’m planning to make singles and give it 100% even if I only make two or three a year.
Journalist: Can you tell us a bit about what made you so successful?
Mr J: I don’t know how to write lyrics; I don’t know how to use MIDI; I don’t know how to record music; I can’t do post production; I don’t know how to make a video; I don’t know how to edit film. These are all reasons we have for just not giving it a try.
Journalist: Where do you think this newly-emerging street culture is going in Tibet? Are people following trends like sheep or it is some kind of clever melding?
Mr J: There’s always a process of learning and borrowing before things take on their own character. I think that from now on Tibetan rap music is inseparable from the Tibetan language. Tibetan rap is a culture that is unique to Tibet.
Journalist: After selling your first album why did you choose to distribute your second album for free and allow free downloads.
Mr J: I’m stubborn and also the background music on the first album was all my own work, so I sold it for a little cigarette money. But I got the background music for the second album from the internet so if I sold it for money how would I be any different from some other singers? Even though I wrote the lyrics, it’s cool to be able to make people happy by sharing my sadness.
Journalist: You’ve previously rapped about love in songs that talked about jealousies and quarrels that flare up in a long-distance relationship. What do you think about long-distance relationships now; have you changed your mind since you wrote that song?
Mr J: I don’t want to talk about that now. See you when my next song is out!