Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Music of Nawang Khechog featured at

Nawang Khechog is a Grammy nominee and one of Tibet's formost world music composers and musician. He is also one of the first Tibetan musicians to be able to break into international world music scene with his original and authentic musical compositions (solo and collaborative albums) to be distributed around the world through different record labels.

Nawang was a monk for 11 years and studied Buddhist philosophy and meditation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many other Tibetan masters. He also lived as a hermit, meditating in the Himalayan foothills for several years under the guidance of His Holiness.

He aims to utilize music as a means to inspire non-violence, compassion and spirituality and for the freedom of Tibetan people. In the last few years, there have been some signs of interest from PRC governement for the future of Tibet by inviting the delegations of HH Dalai Lama and Tibetan Government in Exile in Tibet and China. "I hope", says Nawang, "this is a genuine sign of PRC government's interest in resolving the tragedy and suffering of Tibet. It is hard to trust but it will reveal its true face by year 2010. If this is genuine, negotiation and dialog is best for both sides

Nawang has produced five albums by himself and co-produced two albums with Kitaro and Peter Kater-'Karuna'; a solo album, and 'The Dance of Innocents ' with Peter Kater on piano, ' Wind of Devotion' with R. Carlos Nakai (the most prominent Native American Flutist) ' In a Distant place ' with R. Carlos Nakai, William Eaton (one of the world's great designer and builders of unique guitars ) Will Clipman (a leading percussionist). This album , they not only recieved the Grammy nomination but they also got three prestigious nominations from the 'Nammy Awards' (the Native American music awards) 'the Record of the Year',' the Best Instrumental Recording ' and 'the Best Duo or Group of the Year '.
He also wrote and performed the music for the New York play, 'Road Home' directed by award winning director, Lawrence Sacharow and played by Martin Luther King Jr's daughter, Yolanda King, and other actors. (This is a multimedia play, filmed by Academy Award Winner Barbara Kopple and written by Academy Award Winner James Lecesne). He has played on Kitaro's Grammy nominated albums 'Mandala' and 'Enchanted Evening' and toured with him extensively in the US, Japan, Canada, Brazil and South East Asian countries.

Nawang has performed at Carnegie Hall, Universal Amphitheater, Radio City Music Hall, Boston Symphony Hall, The Pentagon, World Peace Festivals, numerous schools, Art Galleries and RFK Stadium, just to mention a few.

He has collaborated with Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Kitaro, Trey Anastasio [Phish], Ustad Sultan Khan, Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma, David Bowie, Michael Stipe (R.E.M.), Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (nephew of the famous Qawalli singer), Natalie Merchant, Peter Kater, R. Carlos Nakai, Paul Winter, Allen Ginsberg, Patty Smith, Steve Gorn, and performed in the same concerts with U2, Pearl Jam, Taj Mahal, Beastie Boys, Ben Harper, R.E.M., Alanis Morissette, Bjork, Sonic Youth, Billy Corgan, Moby, Dave Matthews, Herbie Hancock, Tracy Chapman, KRS-1, Sean Lennon and A Tribe Called Quest.

He has also performed many times at the prestigious yearly concerts of Tibet House, New York, benefit & Tibetan Freedom Concerts. Nawang also supports and participated many times with Peacejam Programs, an organization with twelve Nobel Peace Laureates on their Board of Advisors dedicated to youth education and greater human values.

Nawang's music has been used in various documentaries, most recently for part of the sound track of Hollywood's major motion picture 'Seven Years in Tibet,' directed by Jean Jacques Annaud and starring Brad Pitt. He also worked as a Tibetan Assistant Director and played six different acting rolls for the film.

He has also worked at a wide range of causes and organizations, ranging from Schools, Prisons, Buddhist Centres, Interfaith Services to the numerous benefit concerts for AIDS, Environment, Peace, and many Tibet support groups, as welI as the US Tibetan Re-settlement Projects.

Nawang was born into a nomadic family in Eastern Tibet, on a high mountain plateau, where trees can not grow and the wind whispers through the grasslands. He learned about life's lessons and survival at an early age. When he was only three years old, a yogi meditator convinced his father that it would be devastating for their family to remain in Tibet, so they fled the land. The family travelled thousands of miles to India on the backs of yaks. Following a treacherous three year journey, the yogi's prediction came true in 1959, when China took over Tibet. Nawang's family still suffered - most of his family, including his two younger sisters perished in the hot climate of India.

In 1981, Nawang met Leslie Christianson, they married and had two beautiful children, Sangye (son) and Tenzin (daughter). Now, they are grown up as two bright and beautiful children. While they were together in Australia, they helped to establish and became founding board members of Australia Tibet Council (ATC) with other Tibetans and Australians who were dedicated to help the situation in Tibet. Meanwhile Leslie became the first founding National Director for ATC and worked hard and effectively to make the ATC the most powerful Tibet support group in Australia. Nawang toured throughout Australia performing and educating Australians for the Tibetan cause and suffering. He also twice presented the first and second 'Five Point Peace Plan' for Tibet by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawk. After eight years of thier marriage,they seperated in 1989 but now both are re-married since 1997. Nawang's spiritual friend and his wife Tsering Youdon has finally able to immigrate and join him in USA, after three years of immigration waiting period.

In 1991, he was invited by Tibet House, New York and the co-founder and actor Richard Gere, for a North American tour. Nawang toured numerous cities by giving concerts and speaking out about the situation in Tibet to audiences, radio stations and newspaper journalists during the 'International Year of Tibet' Celebration.

In 1992, Nawang opened the Earth Summit Precom meeting at the UN General Assembly Hall. He also performed for many openings for the public address by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Nawang is a self taught musician. His music springs out of his feeling and life experience as a world traveling, Tibetan nomad. He plays a veritable United Nations of native instruments - including Tibetan long horn, South American Mayan Ocarinas, Australian Aboriginal Didgeridoo, and Tibetan and Native American flutes - as well as more familiar African drums, and other cymbals and bells. He also performs the ethereal and other-worldly sound of Tibetan, Mongolian and Tuvan overtone Chanting and the Universal Horn. This is Nawang's newly invented instrument, a combination of Tibetan long horn, Aboriginal Didgeridoo and American Trombone.

Tibetan multi-instrumentalist, Nawang brings the beauty of his and other countries' ancient ritual sounds to a modern audience with original compositions created with an ear towards uniting old and new in an all-encompassing whole.

Having spent more than thirty years in India as a Tibetan refugee, Nawang now seeks strength and tranquility in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Living in a town, at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, he looks to the splendor of nature as a continual source of inspiration. Nawang's experiences shape and permeate his music.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

IMG Tibet Trek 2007 Trip Report

What do you get when you take nine folks over sixty years old and four youngins (under sixty) to over 21,000 feet in the Himalayas? You get an email from one of them after the trip recommending that we,

“might explore placing an ad in one or another senior publication as seniors have the time and many have the resources to afford this kind of trip and our group certainly proves that it can be done safely, if probably more slowly than if there were more thirty somethings and fewer geezers.”

I must admit that I really got a kick out of this as I sat in my comfortable chair in my comfortable office sipping a freshly brewed Americano and reading my emails several weeks after recuperating from the trip. As we were reminded of several times, Tibet is the Wild Wild West of the East, but it is also a gem. Traveling in Tibet is hard, rewarding, frustrating, pleasant, colorful and intriguing. It’s heights circean. The people are the soul of the landscape, and it is refreshing to say that in the way that they will never know what it is like to be us, that the same is true of us of them.

Beijing, China:
We begin our trip in Beijing, the future home of the 2008 Olympics. The air is a bit cleaner this year as they try to prepare for the athletes. They still have a long way to go in this regard, but when they are serious about something they really seem to go for it. We made our usual visits to Tienamin Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall, and I am reminded of what a great place this is to start our journey through China. Understanding Beijing a little bit preps your mind for the socioeconomic situations that you encounter in Tibet’s cities. Our visit here is short and sweet, and we are all eager to begin our journey to Lhasa tomorrow. We lay our jet lagged bodies in bed early in preparation for our early flight tomorrow morning, only to wake up at 3 AM and lay sleepless in our beds until it’s time for breakfast.

Lhasa, Tibet:

Walking up the jet way I turn to the person behind me who is trying to mask how short of breath they are on this seemingly benign walk through a normal looking modern airport. I must admit that I am sucking wind too. They look back at me with a look that says, “I am out of breath but there is no way in hell that I am going to be the first to admit this to my guide.” After we retrieve our bags, we are met by Big Dawa, our local guide, friend, and super good guy. Dawa was born in Lhasa in a small home in the shadow of the Potala Palace. (The homes are no longer there as they have been replaced by the Chinese with a monument.) Dawa is the guy who makes it all happen for us our entire time in Tibet, and is an authority on Tibetan history and religion. He is at our side all of the time except for when we are trekking or are above base camp. Even then he is in communication and ready with a jeep to help us out if need be.

Lhasa is a visual cornucopia. The markets, the Barkhor, the Palace, the people, the Jokhang Temple, just aim your camera and shoot. Like taking pictures on Safari, it is like shooting fish in a barrel. The colors, textures, and subjects are as good as it gets in this regard, and this is one of the reasons that I return. It does not disappoint.

The jeeps:

Well, they are not really jeeps, they are Toyota Landcruisers, and they are our home for a few days on our way to Tingri. Our overland journey will take us through Gyantse to the Pelkor Chode Monastery and the exquisite Kumbum Chorten, to Shigatse and the Tashilhunpo Monastery, on to our first trekking camp in the outskirts of Tingri. This leg of our journey allows us to acclimatize, relax, take lots of pictures, and see how the other half lives so to speak. Even though the road is now mostly paved, it is still a wild landscape and the road is beginning to pothole already. I think in a few years when the potholes will be large enough to swallow jeeps, we will be wondering if this is better than dirt roads.

Finally, we are out of the jeeps and ready to walk. As we drive into camp we are met by Dendi. Dendi is also a regular on these trips and a welcome sight. Dendi is the head honcho and will be with us all the way to ABC. He and his entire crew, have driven over from Katmandu with our gear and provisions. He makes the logistics, sherpas, cooks, and yak drivers tick like a swiss watch..........most of the time. There are a lot of variables in this neck of the woods and Dendi is a great improviser. He gets the job done, and everybody likes him at the same time. That’s why he gets paid the big bucks. After a couple of nights at our Tingri camp and a 4 hour acclimatization hike we begin our journey towards Everest. Today the scale of Tibet sinks in. We can see our destination from our Tingri camp, but it takes ALL day to get there. It is good to finally be walking.

We get our first grand view of Everest’s impressive North Face from our camp at the Rongbuk Monastery. It is the kind of place and time where, most of the group just stands there looking for long periods of time at the mountain. Watching the light change on the mountain as the evening matures, I usually take about 100 photos this evening. All the same photo, just different light on the mountain. This is the moment that many of us are reminded why we are here, not just to work hard on the trail, but to experience something bigger than us.

Everest Base Camp:

It is very cool to arrive at base camp having walked there, rather than arriving in a jeep fresh from the hotel. It just feels good. By now the joy of just getting here is starting to become familiar and our minds start focusing on the hard days ahead getting to ABC. Some people wonder how they will do, others wonder how the others will do, and some are still just trying to get rid of that nagging headache. Three nights at Base Camp should give us all a chance to catch up with ourselves and get a fresh start as we begin our journey to the highest place on the planet that you can go without climbing.

Camp 1:
Well rested and antsy to get moving again we begin our journey up the moraine to camp 1. Our cozy base camp has to be broken down and the yaks loaded for the first time. This is no small task for our sherpa and yak driver team. Figuring out the loads and making it to camp takes a couple hours longer that it takes us. This allows us to take a nice slow pace and take long breaks to soak in the view. We get fantastic views of Pumori and the other peaks surrounding Everest, until the clouds come in. We arrived in camp an hour before the yaks and in the snow. Bundling up we wait for them to arrive. When they arrive, the sherpa team is quick to set up the mess tent and serve us hot drinks and snacks while they continue to set up our sleeping tents. We are tired, but these guys work so hard to keep us happy and healthy. We will spend two nights here to get ready for our huge move to camp II.

The trail to Camp II:

The “Serac Highway” has to be seen to be believed. The combination of gravity, cold temperatures, wind and sublimation have shaped the ablation zone of the East Rongbuk glacier into Nieve Penitentes on steroids. This is a very long day with varied terrain up to Camp II at 20,000’. For a large part on the day, we travel on a medial moraine up through the seracs with views of Everest’s summit and ultimately our camp at the top of the moraine amongst these giants.
The weather is good and our team is in as good a shape as we can expect, so we plan to go to ABC tomorrow morning.


When we awake the next morning the weather is fantastic. Sun, gentle breezes, and a killer view await us and the group is quick to get going this morning. (So fast in fact that one climber went for several hours with a pair of sunglasses in their boot!!!) We had perfect weather all the way to ABC and our Sherpa team took excellent care of us. All fourteen of us made it and were graced with a spectacular view of a recently snow dusted Mt. Everest. Tired as we were, the view that day of the mountain and the looks on our faces will remain in my mind.
On the way down it began to snow and some of us towards the back had quite a good little snow storm to descend in. In varying degrees of exhaustion, we trickled back into camp to be nursed back by our still attentive sherpa team. It was a great day and all down hill from here so to speak.

Return to BC:
We returned to Base Camp to celebrate our success and had one big final meal together as a group. Several folks would be departing for Khatmandu tomorrow morning and the sherpa team made us a chocolate cake to celebrate with. (We also had a case of Lhasa Beer to help.) The rest of us would retrace our steps over the next few days back to Lhasa, where we would take the new train back to Beijing. Good Job Team.
Congratulations to the Team!
Don Ross
Jay Causey
Jay Halfon
Scott Skinner
Monica Rimai
Nicole Areson
Robert Shapiro
Chris Shapiro
Tom Novick
Dick Taggart
Peggy Taggart
Sam Nay
Steve Atlas
and me................

Adam Angel
IMG Guide.