Techung: Tibet; Lam La Che/On The Road (ARC Music)

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Techung: Lam La Che (w Keb' Mo')
Techung: Tibet; Lam La Che/On The Road (ARC Music)

The Tibetan diaspora which has seen many flee the country since the Chinese occupation began over 60 years ago means in many countries there are second, third and fourth generation Tibetans who have never seen their homeland but who have an emotional and spiritual attachment to that remote country.

The politics of Tibet -- and Tibetan Buddhism which has also spread apace -- are highly complex and sensitive. The Chinese incursion and occupation is the least of it. You can get yourself into very difficult conversations when you suggest the land was far from some happy Shangri-La before the Chinese, or that the much revered Dalai Lama's adherents have, often unwittingly, advanced the notion there was just their one school of Buddhism in the country.

Techung is a Tibetan who -- like so many -- grew up in Dharamsala in India (where many thousand of refugees and exiles settled) but who has travelled widely and has lived in San Francisco since the Eighties, where he performs, teaches music and dance, and holds the banner of Tibet high.

After the opening piece recorded at a Tibetan Freedom Concert held in Taiwan in '08 (the aching, blues-like Let's Go Home sung partly in English) this album offers a fascinating collection of (mostly) instrumentals which range from folk tunes on traditional instruments (string and flute) to the title track with bluesman Keb' Mo' and a group and, at the end, the anthemic Ning Thop (a plea not to give up hope) with dulcimer, electric bass, drums and keyboards.

While the more "Western" songs -- that is, in their arrangements -- are the most easy for non-Tibetans to immediately connect with, the real gems in this collection are the traditional melodies, folk tunes and sometimes celebratory pieces, many of them on the dramnyen (long necked, five-stringed Tibetan lute).

By virtue of their simplicity, unfurling melodies and occasional embellishments from flute or dulcimer, they speak with a quiet elequence which comes imbued with yearning and a timelessness which, rightly or wrongly, many would associate with Tibet.

An important but also enjoyable album which will make you think. 

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