By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, Nov. 26: Renowned Tibetan artist Tenzin Choegyal’s album ‘Songs from the Bardo’ has been nominated for the Best New Age Album in the prestigious 2020 Grammy awards on Wednesday. Choegyal has collaborated with Laurie Anderson and Jesse Paris Smith for the new album.
“I heard about Grammys in TCV when I was just a kid but I would have never thought of actually being nominated in my wildest dreams. I hope ‘Songs from the Bardo’ tells the story of Tibet as the country has been in the Bardo for the last 60 years. Tibet has been in this intermediate space between life and death for a very long time,” he told Phayul. The Australia based musician has been an avid reader of Bardo Thodol (Liberation in the Intermediate state through hearing) a Buddhist text by Guru Padmasambhava, since the last 30 years.
Choegyal’s vision to merge the Buddhist text and music has paid dividends, “I thought I can express the text into music, and that’s when the idea to merge the music and text came about. I started experimenting with different musicians and performed it in different places. I have never called them concerts; I have always called them meditations on the ‘Tibetan Book of the Dead’ with musical illuminations. Eventually, I asked Jesse whether she would like to collaborate, and then she accepted to work with me on this project, and then we included Laurie Anderson into the process.”
The Grammy-nominated artist wondered if his late parents would have understood this recognition, “The one thing that came to my mind after the nomination was how my parents would feel if they saw me right now. Would they understand the Grammys? Would I have made them proud?” He further remarked that his philosophy regarding music is that it is more like “drifting clouds that do not bother about the geographical boundaries”.
However, he is also painfully aware of his responsibilities as a Tibetan, “Every Tibetan has a responsibility regardless of whichever field they are interested in. Especially for those of us in the Tibetan diaspora, we have the responsibility to speak for the Tibetans inside Tibet. My parents were always ready to go back to Tibet but unfortunately, they passed away here in exile.” Choegyal said he always tries to incorporate messages from Guru Rinpoche and His Holiness the Dalai Lama into his music whenever possible.
“There is a need to keep traditions alive but then it should not be preserved like in a museum without any growth. What we call traditional now probably was contemporary then. What I want to create is compassionate music that will enlighten people to make people more aware of things around you,” he added. He said that he is personally invested in the cause of climate change and wants to amplify the cause through his art.
Tenzin Choegyal has forged a successful international career as a musician, playing at prestigious events as WOMAD as well as several Concerts for Tibet House at Carnegie Hall, New York. In 2008, he founded the annual Festival of Tibet in Brisbane, Australia, which showcases Tibetan culture through music, film, art, and discussion.
Choegyal becomes the fourth Tibetan person or group to be nominated for the prestigious Grammys. In 2004, a group of Tibetan monks from Palpung Sherab Ling Monastery, near Bir were nominated and eventually won the Best Traditional World Music Album Award at the 46th Grammy for their album Sacred Tibetan Chants: The Monks of Sherab Ling Monastery (Naxos World). Also, Tibetan flutist Ngawang Kechog was also nominated for a grammy while Tibetan monk Geshe Ngawang Tashi Bapu was nominated in the Best Traditional World Music Category.