Tibet, Tibet

Yungchen Lhamo

Released 12 August 1996

  1. Om Mani Padme Hung
  2. Lama Dorje Chang
  3. Ari-Lo
  4. Refuge Prayer
  5. Par Panee Dawa Shar
  6. Lhaso Pumo
  7. Dorje-Den
  8. Dradul Nyenkyon
  9. Om Mani Padme Hung II
  10. Gi Pai Pa Yul Chola

Liner notes

Standing centre stage at WOMAD Reading, a diminutive, solitary figure in traditional pink and black brocade is decorating her rapt audience with vocal garlands. “I am only an ordinary woman, born in Lhasa in the land of Tibet,” sings Yungchen Lhamo. “I weave each note into a chain of flowers for you / I’ll offer this in the hope that it will soothe and ease both body and mind.”

Hers is a singular voice of clarion-like beauty, a moment of sobering inspiration amidst the festival hullabaloo. Whether unaccompanied, backed by percussion and strings, layered over an audience chanting the Om mantra or captured on CD, the effect is spine tingling. Yungchen Lhamo receives a standing ovation with the same grace as she offers her blessings.

Part of the Tibetan diaspora, this serene, deeply religious Buddhist left her homeland out of necessity seven years ago. An arduous journey saw her trek 1,000 miles across the Himalayas to Dharamsala in Northern India, the home in exile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. There she met her Australian husband Sam, a student of Tibetan Buddhism and the Tibetan language. Sam and Yungchen Lhamo had every intention of remaining in India, until a greater force deemed otherwise.

“My teacher called us in one day and said he thought we should go back to Australia,” says Sam. “I pleaded to stay but he insisted there was a good opportunity waiting for us there.” When asked about her role as an ambassadress for the political situation in Tibet, Yungchen Lhamo, who has family still in Tibet, replies: “There are many countries around the world where people are experiencing incredible suffering. Each one has their way of bringing their plight to the attention of the world. Through singing as I do, I hope to fulfill that role.”

Yungchen Lhamo’s Australian debut, ‘Tibetan Prayer’, won the ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Award) for best world music album of 1995. It was, said her husband and manager Sam Doherty, recorded in three days merely so Yungchen Lhamo would have a CD for sale at WOMADelaide. ‘Tibet Tibet’ builds on the essence of this first recording, with Real World producer Richard Evans playing the mandola and overseeing instrumentation by Tibetan musician Dhumka on the string dramyen and Japanese percussionist Joji Hiroto.

Lyrically, ‘Tibet Tibet’s’ songs are offerings. Par Panee Dawa Shar likens moonrise to her Lama’s face, hoping that – by offering song and dance to him – he will shower down his blessings. Lama Dorje Chang asks the Dalai Lama to bless us with his enlightened mind. Om Mani Padme Hung is the Tibetan mantra, and Ari-Lo tells of entering a new land. At first, sings Yungchen Lhamo, the land may seem hostile, like a fearful stranger, but knowledge can lead to it becoming as close as a lover. The final track – telling of the strife besetting Tibet, the bravery of its people and the confidence that the Dalai Lama will one day preside again – utilises a full orchestra, courtesy of technological software. “You can’t see the people, it’s an invisible orchestra,” giggles Yungchen Lhamo. “They fell from the sky.”

Yungchen Lhamo’s name was bestowed on her as a child by a holy man. Translated, it means “Goddess of Melody and Song”. At pains to stress there is nothing special about her, Yungchen Lhamo sings in order to uplift and inspire listeners to pursue a spiritual path.

Listen

Reviews

  • Her pure unaccompanied voice swooping to meet her frail outstretched hands in songs of spellbinding mournfulness. The Independent (UK)
  • Chants, laments and devotionals that cut to the soul on the strength of a diamond-pure voice. MOJO (UK)
  • Lhamo carries the weight of the world with the grace of a dove. The New York Post (USA)

Further Listening

  • Ama

    Yungchen Lhamo

    Released 03 April 2006

    On her third album for Real World Records, Yungchen again brings the voice of Tibet to songs infused with the quiet spiritual power of Tibetan Buddhism, but with a decidedly 21st century global feel. Trumpet, strings, African kora, Middle Eastern percussion and the even, sweet tones of a National Steel guitar are delicately woven around Yungchen's magical voice.
  • Rain of Blessings: Vajra Chants

    Lama Gyurme & Jean-Philippe Rykiel

    Released 06 March 2000

    The meeting of a Tibetan Buddhist monk of the ancient Kagyupa School, messenger of one of the most ancient philosophies, and a French musician known for his mastery of the keyboards. This is an album of powerful chants with lush textures that capture the serenity of the Tibetan monasteries.

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