Saturday, June 21, 2014

Free Tibet: Techung and Rang zen-Independence

When I was in college, I first started seeing the Free Tibet slogans and the Tibetan flag (a sun rising over a mountain peak). Over the years I have loosely followed the Tibetan story, which mostly gets retold in our country when the Dalai Lama comes to America or something happens to Tibet. The history, as I understand it, is that for centuries Tibet was a proud, independent nation governed on the principles of Tibetan Buddhism. In the 1950s, the Chinese made good on their longstanding claim to Tibet and invaded, turning Tibet into a Chinese province. They attempted to usurp the selection process of the spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, by proposing their own candidate. This caused the young Dalai Lama (who is believed to be the same spiritual being reincarnated into different bodies throughout history) to flee to India. Today he lives in exile with other exiled Tibetans, while China slowly tries to assimilate Tibet into the rest of China with varying degrees of success.

There are a number of good documentaries about the Dalai Lama and his journey, and others about the Tibetan situation. I have an interesting story about Tibet: my wife's sister-in-law snuck into Tibet in the 70s on a rope bridge across a deep chasm and spent a little bit of time there (the area is generally not open to foreigners without a permit and there was a time when it was not open to Westerners at all).

The music selection for today is by Tibetan artist who goes by the nickname of Techung when he plays music solo, and as Tashi Dhondup Sharzur at other times. He is a second generation Tibetan exile born in Tibet but raised in Dharamsala, India. As an adult he splits his time between Dharamsala and San Francisco. He studied Tibetan music, dance and opera extensively as a child at the Tibetan Institute for Performing Arts, and has become one of the key keepers of Tibetan musical and performing arts traditions. He founded the San Francisco-based Chaksampa Tibetan Dance and Opera Company in 1989, and is known for his collaborative work that explores his own musical heritage and that of other world music traditions. His latest album, Techung-Tibet-Lam La Che: On The Road (2013) features collaborative work with Keb' Mo'.

This song, Rang zen-Independence, is from his 2004 album A Compilation of Tibetan Folk and Freedom Songs.