Tibetan exile Yungchen Lhamo has traveled to 60 countries performing at such distinguished venues as Carnegie Hall and the Louvre, singing her original songs and Buddhist chants and mantras a cappella. “The sheer beauty of her voice: spine-tingling stuff” is how The Guardian described her performance, while The New York Times noted the “deep unwavering Om” that filled Carnegie Hall during one concert and praised Yungchen’s “pristine, gliding vocal lines.”
Lhamo, who moved to New York City in 2000 after living in Australia for seven years, will now be performing in her new place of residence: Kingston. On Saturday, December 7 at 3 p.m., her voice will be fill the rafters of the Council Chambers of Kingston City Hall, in a concert hosted by Deep Listening Space and the City of Kingston. Kingston mayor Shayne Gallo – finding solace in Lhamo’s singing, which is in Tibetan – said that “Yungchen Lhamo is our universal mandala and mantra…Her message of love, peace and forgiveness comes from a place that is not from our world. When we listen to her voice, we are reminded of the oneness connecting all life throughout the universe.”
The concert is part of the annual Dream Festival held by Deep Listening co-founder Ione, who, along with her partner and fellow Kingston resident Pauline Oliveros, world-famous avant-garde composer and performer, met Yungchen through the mayor. Having sponsored numerous electroacoustic concerts representing a wide range of cultural traditions, Deep Listening, based in the Shirt Factory, is a natural sponsor for the concert, titled “Discovering Your Inner Health, Healing and Strength.” It will be streamed live at www.ustream.tv/channel/deep-listening-institute-presents.
Lhamo, who is about to release her fourth CD, has performed with such noteworthy artists as Natalie Merchant, Annie Lennox, Billy Corgan, Peter Gabriel and Michael Stipe. Her debut album, Tibetan Prayer, won the Aria Music Awards for Best Folk/World/Traditional Music release in 1995, and her subsequent CD, Coming Home, recorded in collaboration with Hector Zazou, features chanting by Tibetan monks and accompaniment by various Western instruments.
Born in Lhasa, she learned Tibetan devotional singing from her mother and grandmother in an early life marked by hardship: Religion was banned, there was little food and her grandfather had been killed by the occupying Chinese forces. In 1989, Lhamo escaped into India on an extraordinary 1,000-mile trek across the Himalayas – a journey that many Tibetans, including children, have made in their attempt to find freedom and didn’t survive. After reaching Dharamsala and receiving the blessings of the Dalai Lama, who heads the Tibetan government in exile, she was inspired to reach out to the world through song. Lhamo also created a foundation, with the aim of opening educational clinics in Tibet and other countries.
Her dream is to return to Tibet. “It’s not so nice to have your body in one land and your soul and mind in another place,” she writes. “Every day my heart is in Tibet.”
Yungchen Lhamo, “Discovering Your Inner Health, Healing and Strength” concert to benefit Deep Listening Space, Saturday, December 7, 3 p.m., $15/$10, Kingston City Hall, Council Chambers, 420 Broadway, Kingston; (845) 338-5984, www.deeplistening.org/dreamfestival, www.yungchen.brownpapertickets.com.