January 2024 - Turn it Up: Yungchen Lhamo
Get ready to be transported into a world of enchanting melodies and heartfelt lyrics as we unravel the musical journey of Yungchen Lhamo. Coming to New Mexico through the AMP Concert Series on January 17th-19th, audiences will have the opportunity to hear the ethereal sounds of Lhamo’s music.
How did your musical journey begin?
My mother and grandmother taught me to sing traditional Tibetan songs - and a Tibetan opera! - from when I was very little, and I performed with two song-and-dance groups after I went to India in my late teens. I always wanted to be a nun, rather than a singer, even though my name translates as 'Goddess of Melody', but when I was in Dharamsala His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama encouraged me to use my voice to promote Tibetan culture around the world. Later I moved to Australia, where my first album, 'Tibetan Prayer', led to me being invited to sing at the WOMADelaide Festival in 1995. That same year, the album won Australia's equivalent of a Grammy, the ARIA Award for 'Best World Music Album'. I was then signed by Peter Gabriel's Real World Records label and I began touring the world, usually performing a cappella, but also collaborating with many other artists.
What is it about your sound that resonates with so many people?
Tibetan culture has the idea that sounds, including music, may be given as an offering to all beings. I don't regard myself as an entertainer, or even as a singer when giving a concert, but rather I create sounds as energy, as offerings and prayers, that may help people to realize their true inner nature. Of course, people may come to my concerts for many different reasons and with different expectations, but whoever is there I am happy to sing for them. I have been very lucky because, although I normally sing in Tibetan, wherever I have been people have respected and enjoyed what I sing. Sometimes years later some people might remember what I had said on stage - even in my broken English! - and might tell me that is why they stopped drinking or smoking, or that they understood that life is not just sitting there complaining.
Even though I sing in a different language from that of the audience, the feeling can be the same for everyone, whether they are American, European, African, or Asian. All beings want to be happy and don't like suffering, and, in that sense, many people get my message. Some might say: "I don't understand what you are singing, but I saw my grandmother when you sang your second song." Or, when I went to Japan, older people said: "Oh, you sing like our traditional songs!" For me, this is something beyond my thoughts or imagination. When I went to Ireland some people said: "Oh, there are some songs that we used to sing like that when we were working in the fields." When you grow up without much knowledge about the world and then people talk like that, especially older people, it is very moving.
Tell us about your new album, 'One Drop of Kindness'.
This is my seventh album and has seven songs about unconditional love, compassion, offerings, and wisdom, flavored by musicians on everything from piano, flute, drums, and electric guitar, to didgeridoo, Indian violin, the Turkish cümbüs-oud, and the Armenian duduk-oboe! The album is a reminder that each of us can make a difference and achieve spiritual awakening, and came about when I met John Alevizakis in his Little Buddha Studio in Nevada City, California, where we co-produced 'One Drop of Kindness'. The album was released by Real World Records last September on digital, CD, and vinyl, and is available at: https://lnk.to/RW252
What can the audience expect with your upcoming performances in January?
I am very excited about my three concerts in New Mexico - which are being organized by AMP Concerts in Taos on Wednesday 17th, Santa Fe on Thursday 18th, and in Albuquerque on Friday 19th - not least because they will be the very first three concerts in my 2024 'Monkey Mind' tour and on which I will be joined by Albuquerque-based musician Billy White and other guests. Each concert will combine a cappella singing, audience participation, and songs with my musicians - and maybe some of the audience will get up and dance! I will also be happy to meet people after each concert - and in addition to albums, I will have some Tibetan jewelry, sales of which will benefit my non-profit charitable organization, the One Drop of Kindness Foundation.
What do you hope your music can do for our world?
I don't have any such global aspirations! If one would like to see world peace, for example, the best way to start is for each person to work to achieve inner peace, to reduce and ultimately eliminate all the negativities in their mind, such as pride, jealousy, desire, Ignorance, greed, and anger/hatred, and to perfect the positive qualities of generosity, right conduct, forbearance, diligence, concentration meditation, and profound wisdom. If my music makes one person feel more joyful for one hour, then I will be happy. If my music helps one person to work diligently through several lifetimes and achieve inner peace, then I will be even happier.
What would you like your legacy to be?
"She came, she sang, she passed on."