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Tibet's culture, plight are shared at TibetFest
Seattle Times staff reporter
With guttural chanting and resounding horn and flute, renowned Tibetan musician Nawang Khechog brought Tibet, the roof of the world, to the rooftop plaza of Seattle Center's Fisher Pavilion during the weekend-long TibetFest.
Khechog used the traditional Tibetan long horn and a flute called a lingbu to quiet listeners' minds and to promote peace and awareness of the nomadic culture he fears is fleeting.
"In Tibet, our culture is dying every day," said Khechog. "Soon it could be lost forever."
Khechog fled thousands of miles from Tibet with his family to the Eastern India region of Orissa when he was just 2 or 3, he said, but he doesn't recall much about the journey. At the age of 13 Khechog became a Buddhist monk and lived in a monastery in the Himalayan Mountains, studying meditation, music and the teachings of Buddhism with the Dalai Lama, whom Khechog described as "the heart, soul and backbone of the Tibetan people."
By the age of 24 Khechog decided that he needed to leave monastery life behind, but he continued to build his reputation as a musician.
In 1991 Khechog was brought to the United States for a tour organized by actor Richard Gere. Since then he has immigrated to the U.S. and now lives in Boulder, Colo. The 54-year-old said the Rocky Mountains reminded him of his mountainous homeland.
During the course of his career, Khechog has collaborated with such luminaries as Philip Glass, David Bowie, Patti Smith and Allen Ginsberg.
He said artists must act as role models by working creatively with other artists from vastly different backgrounds to bridge cultural and political gaps.
When he returned to Tibet in the early 1990s, he said, he was told his grandfather had died in prison after being caught trying to flee Chinese government rule.
During his performance Sunday, the Grammy-nominated musician grew emotional and shed a tear while playing, explaining afterward that he had just heard that the Chinese government was bringing nomadic herders in Tibet down from the mountains to live in cities.
Khechog believes that awareness and kindness can save his culture from oblivion.
"We must stand firm but nonviolently," he said.
This was the 11th TibetFest for Seattle. Khechog said it's one of the strongest Tibetan cultural festivals in the nation that is dedicated to the livelihood not only of Tibet but also of the local Tibetan community.
Kathy F. Mahdoubi: 206-464-8292 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company