February 26, 2004

Test Spin: Kelsang Chukie Tethong

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Finally, a Tibetan musician has emerged as a voice for her own country, and she does so by performing Tibetan music in the traditional style. As the liner notes explain, ancient Tibetan culture is being encroached upon by popular Chinese trends (ever since they made that damn Silk Road!). Tethong stands in front of the proverbial tank in her album Voice from Tara with her soft-voiced Buddhist prayer songs and archaic love melodies. Many tracks, like the cleverly titled “Om Manye Bhe Mae Hum,” reflect her deep Buddhist convictions and rely almost entirely on Tethong’s voice to carry the tune. There are the scant sounds of pianos, violins, and woodwinds, but they provide no substantial support to the beautifully spoken words. While most songs are airy and delicate, one in particular, “Face of Champa,” has a significant beat to which one can probably dance. If the songs are indeed ancient, they stand the test of time well, proving that Tibetans have always been ahead of their time. However, it is hard to designate a specific utility for this album; it’s not rhythmic enough for dance, too sharp for meditation, and outright not fit for the Luckett County Fair Jamboree.

Archived article by Chris Kakovitch