|By Tenzin Choephel
Amalia Rubin poses for a photograph with Kunga Phuntsok. (Photo by Gregory Rubin)
Back in April 2007, I met a young American college student from New York, Amalia Rubin aka Yangchen Dolkar for an interview. She was deeply interested in Tibetan music and culture and even composed and sang Tibetan songs. She told me that she was eager to meet Kunga Phuntsok, a very popular Tibetan singer, and had a strong desire to perform with him one day. Recently she surprised me when she told me that she actually performed with Kunga Phuntsok and Sherten at many places in Tibet between 18th December and 3rd January 2008.
In December of 2007 Amalia and her brother went to Beijing. On the 18th of December she performed at a very popular Tibetan restaurant Makye Ame with other local Tibetan artistes. They then went to Siling (Ch. Xining
) and Lhasa where they spent about a week. It was in Lhasa that she met Sherten and Kunga. Kunga invited her to perform with him at a Nangma
, club hosting Tibetan dance music, in Nagchu, a small town located north-east of Lhasa, on the 23rd of December. She said many Nangmas
hosted special nights with special artistes and the two of them were the special artistes of the night. They performed about five songs each and the audience responded so well that both of them were laden with khatas. On the 26th of December she had the chance to perform with Sherten at a Nangma
Amalia Rubin performing at Makye Ame Restaurant in Beijing. (Photo by Gregory Rubin)
From Lhasa, Amalia and her brother flew to Chengdu and spent two days there. They then took a bus to Ngaba in Amdo where they stayed for a week. There she performed twice at a Nangma
. According to her, the performances of the Nangma
artistes were excellent and almost hundred percent in Tibetan. She added that the shows in Nagchu and Lhoka were a lot of fun and a great way to spend time with such amazing artistes.
According to her, Tibetan music by artistes in exile was well received by the local people and Kunga often played it in his car. She also met other Tibetan artistes like Tsewang, Yangchen Lhamo and Namkhatso. They shared their experience about the difficulties of being a singer in Tibet where half of your audience is elsewhere.
Amalia Rubin has released two albums, ‘Mountains and Deserts
’ and ‘Leaving Home
’ which has traditional and modern Tibetan songs except for two Jewish songs. She can play ‘Dranyen
’ (Tibetan lute), and mandolin very well. She has performed in over 30 different concerts with other Tibetan artistes from New York to Geneva to Dharamsala. In June 2007, she was awarded the Best International Artiste for Tibet in Dharamsala, India. Currently, she is studying Asian Studies at the University of Buffalo with her concentration on Tibetan language and culture.
According to Amalia, Kunga asked her to sing one of her songs, “Dzamling Nyima
”, in his next album, since it is legally impossible for Tibetan artistes from outside to sell CDs in Tibet.
Since it was her private trip, Amalia did not face difficulties with the Chinese officials while in Tibet. Although it was much easier for her, she believes that there could be a way, and that we can never rule out the possibility of Tibetan artistes in exile performing for their brothers and sisters in Tibet.