Tibetan monks proud of Grammy nomination

A group of chanting Buddhist monks is in line for a Grammy Award, and exiles from Tibet hope the nomination will raise Western awareness of Tibetan culture and their homeland’s plight under Chinese rule.

“It’s more evidence of the cultural richness of Tibet, and proof of the relevance of Tibet in the world,” Lhasang Tsering, a Tibetan political activist, said on Monday.

“Any avenue to create more awareness is positive,” he said in the Indian city of Dharmsala, 400km north of New Delhi, where the Dalai Lama lives.

The album — called Sacred Tibetan Chant: The Monks of Sherab Ling Monastery — was nominated for a Grammy in the category of best traditional world music on December 4.

The chants were recorded at the monastery on the outskirts of Dharmsala more than a year ago, and the album was released in January this year.

The monks were happy to hear the news of the nomination, though their only involvement was allowing themselves to be recorded, said Tenam Shastri, personal secretary to Lama Tai Situ Rinpoche, whose seat is at the monastery.

He is the teacher of Ugyen Thinley Dorje — the 17th Karmapa, the third-highest ranking lama in Tibetan Buddhism — who fled Tibet as a teenager three years ago, crossing the mountains by foot to reach Dharmsala.

The Indian government allowed the Dalai Lama, the leading figure in Tibetan Buddhism, to set up a government-in-exile in the town after he fled his homeland with thousands of followers in 1959, after a failed uprising against Chinese troops.

“It’s high time for Tibetan music, whether religious or secular, to find acceptance in the West,” said Dashi Tsering, director of the Amnye Machaen Institute, a school in Dharmsala dedicated to preserving Tibetan culture.

Tsering Rhitar, a Tibetan documentary filmmaker, said he hopes “Tibetan music that’s more topical, that’s more political”, will also gain acceptance in the West “and shed light on political issues”.

The central political issue to the Tibetans in northern India is the fight for autonomy in their ancestral home, just over the Himalayan mountains.

When asked whether it was appropriate for religious music to be compared with the more secular, commercially driven nominees in the world music category, Shastri said he had no qualms.

“Any action that attempts to bring peace and harmony in the world is good karma,” he said.

The 46th Grammy Awards will be held on February 8 2004 in Los Angeles. — Sapa-AP

On the web: www.grammy.com

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