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Traveling with Tenzin Gyalpo


February 2011


I want to start by sharing with you a great news that just developed. Our beloved singer in Tibet, Tashi Dhondup, who had been in jail, is now released from jail, according to reliable sources. Please read more at I, on behalf of all the singers in exile, welcome his release and pray for his health.

I just got back from a month-and half-tour in India. I visited mainly the Tibetan communities to release Semshae-Heart Song -Tibetan Children's Music CD. I also ended up participating in concerts to raise awareness about Tashi Dhondup and Dhondup Wangchen (Tibetan filmmaker who is still in jail in Tibet). If you haven't signed the petition to mobiize support for Dhondup Wangchen's release, please check my December update.

My tour started with a concert at an event in Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan, organized by the Tibetan Merchant Association to commemorate His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Nobel Prize winning in 1989. Though the event was long, it was well organized. I am grateful to Cho Dawa la (from Manali) and Sonam Tashi la (originally from Ladakh) for providing the transportation and company.

My artist friend/producer Tenzin Gyalpo la (aka Michael) and I have been in touch with each other through Facebook and email about organizing concerts for fellow artists in Tibet. Michael also helped me find and deal with a company who manufactured Semshae CD. We printed 1,500 CDs with booklets. Michael was able to organize seven concerts - one in Delhi, one in Dharamshala and five in Varanasi. He printed a huge backdrop designed by Tashi Gyamtso la that had the portraits of Tashi Dhondup and Dhondup Wangchen. The event in Delhi took place at the Tibetan colony of Majnu-ka-tila and nine local and out of town artists participated in it. A drive way/parking space of an Indian temple was turned into concert venue for about 500 people. Although the weather was cold and chilly, the music and energy from the crowd kept us all warm and focused. Prominent Tibetan Independence activist Tenzin Tsundue spoke about the importance of exile artists showing solidarity with the freedom movement inside Tibet. Lhamo Tso, wife of the imprisoned filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, told the crowd " My children and I will not rest until my husband and other political prisoners are free." I dedicated a love song for her. An article about this concert is in under the heading "Concert for jailed Tibetan artistes in Delhi"

After Delhi, we left for Dharamshala. My parents live there and it was great to see them well. Semshae CD was officially released there on January 13, 2011 and I was able to donate some CDs to local Tibetan schools. We were in Dharamshala for only two days before leaving for Sikkim. The bus ride from Dharamshala to Delhi was miserable as always, but the train ride from Delhi to Sikkim was pleasant. We got all our meals served in the train.

We were originally planning a CD release concert in Gangtok, Sikkim's capital. But since His Holiness the Dalai Lama was visiting the city, it was too busy to organize a concert. His Holiness' two-day teaching at the Paljor Stadium was a major event. With the help of Donkar, my sister and her family, we sold around 300 Semshae CD. Next we left for Siliguri which is a big city that intersects Darjeeling, Sikkim and Kalimpong. Our relative Tashi Dhundup hosted us there in his new building and the weather was very pleasant. We sold rest of the CDs in Salugara, a city next to Siliguri, where His Holiness gave a public teaching for two days.

From there my entourage, my mom and cousin Tenzin Khewang, left Siliguri and headed back to Dharamshala. While in Dharamshala we met with Tsering Gyurme, Choedak and Dranyen Pasang who had just finished with a concert at TIPA. We organized an impromptu CD release concert in Gangkyi on January 6 with the help from Bhuchung D. Sonam and other friends. This was unique because this maybe the first ever CD release concert in Gangkyi. It went really well and we established a new tradition. Some of the local radios and newspaper covered our activities. The voice of Tibet radio did a panel discussion with Tsering Gyurme la, who is a prominent singer and I on the subject of Tibetan music.

Panel Discussion 1 (sound file) 
Panel Discussion 2 (sound file)

A local Tibetan newspaper, The Tibet Express interviewed me and also ran a short story on Semshae.

In the following days, I, accompanied by my dad who is 89 years old and still fit as a fiddle, left for Dheradun to perform at the Ngonga School (a school for children with special needs). I performed for about an hour and the children even joined me on the stage to dance with me. They were amazing human beings. Thanks to His Holiness and all the incredible people for supporting this school. At present there are 50 children who are being taken care at this school. You can see some photos at

Our next destination was Varanasi, a sacred Buddhist sight where I was to join other Tibetan musicians to take part in five concerts. In the day time, people attended His Holiness' teachings and in the evening they gathered to attend our concerts that included pop, classical and traditional music. Most of the artists on this roster had new CDs and we all played songs from our new albums. Again our main focus of the concerts was to raise awareness about Tashi Dhondup and Dhondup Wangchen. But there were also other activities that happened along with the concerts such as showing movies and campaigning for the upcoming Tibetan Prime minister, Kalon Tripa, elections. One of most important moments, apart from playing a really good show for over 500 people, was that all the artists seem to get along well and love music (and of course enjoyed some shots of whisky too!). Some photos from the concerts in my Photo Album.

I also met a monk from Tibet who came with Lhamo Tso, Dhondup Wangchen's wife, who spoke at our event again. During my brief conversation with the monk, I felt so privileged to learn that what we do here will give hope and strength to our fellow artists and other political prisoners in Tibet.

Apart from concerts, the artists had set up several booths to sell our CDs. I must say that the CD sale was almost pitiful. We had over twenty thousand devotees at His Holiness' teachings and our daily CD sale for each artist was below 15 CDs, sometimes only five. We were very disappointed, especially the younger artists whose albums are supposed to be "Pop" album and should at least sell 50 CDs a day, but somehow nobody seemed to be buying. Besides the Tibetan music business in India is dwindling because of the piracy, and especially now the mobile downloads are so easy from any mobile store. We don't know how we are going to survive this trend. To begin with we never had a glorious time in our music business. I would guess that the most CDs sold by a successful Tibetan artist so far is below five thousand, not counting the pirated ones. Tsering Gyurmay la, our leading Tibetan singer who lives in Nepal, said that in our good days of Tibetan music in exile, in the nineties, we had about 25 new albums every year but now a days it has gone down to 5 new albums. We saw how little people were buying our CDs during these concerts in Varanasi. It is really tough but we will need to come up with new ways to market our music and art. In this regard, I have been really interested in an artistic community such as a Guild or an Association. I think I mentioned something about this in one of my news before but this time, I am convinced that be it musicians, filmmakers, painters, photographers or for that matter any artist in our exile community, we have to come together and work out a plan to improve this situatiation. I have already been discussing this with other artists and I hope and pray that we will soon have an umbrella organization of Tibetan/Himalayan artists in exile.

Well thank you Pala and Amala, my sister and her family, Geshe Khewang la, and all the relatives, special friends and fans for supporting my Europe and India tours. As you know, at this time in our exile music world, without your help, our music scene would be very different. And thanks to my younger brother Tashi Dhondup (aka Gen. George-la) for editing my news.

On my way back from Delhi, I stopped in London for a few days. I met Thupten Samdup la, the representative of His Holiness The Dalai Lama, his staff and also other friends. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to do much because I was not feeling well. My friend Kelsang Tsering, a former TCV student and now a master tailor made a new Tibetan dress for me. I look forward to wearing it on my next gig. Anyway, after I got home to San Francisco, I lay in bed for a few days but now feeling much better and getting back on my normal schedule.

I am excited to share with you that in March and April 2011, I will be in Atlanta teaching Dramnyen, Tibetan lute, speaking about Tibetan music and culture, and doing a few concerts at the Emory University. I am very appreciative of Emory for not only having me there but they have been in the forefront of exploring and promoting understanding between Buddhism and science.

And again, thanks for visiting my website. Do please check my music. All my music is now available for download.


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