May 31, 2009

Festival for Guru Rinpoche

Almost fifteen years ago the Lo Monthang Village District Committee (VDC) began what started as small restoration projects.  First, the VDC collaborated to restore a set of large prayer wheels outside of the village walls.  The community attracted international attention for local restoration efforts and project potential, which snowballed into international partnerships.  Various sources instigated the restoration of local religious structures and monastic art -- of ancient temples that had been used for grain storage and stupas that had been ignored for generations.  Restoring Lo Monthang's Thubchen and Jamba monasteries resulted in the purchase of two sets of Buddhist scriptures.  In homage to the process and in honor of Guru Rinpoche, the Lo Monthang youth and religious leaders spend a day circumambulating the plateau upon which their village sits, carrying the sacred texts.


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Describing my most recent project...

What are your thoughts on effective cultural preservation?

The Kha Lu folk song repertoire of northern Nepal’s Lo region has been at the cusp of extinction; the aging Tashi Tsering, the Official Singer of the Royal Court of Lo’s capital city, Lo Monthang, is the sole preservator of this oral tradition.  In Spring 2009, by request of King Jigme Bista of Lo and with sponsorship by Cambridge University’s World Oral Literature Project, The Sager Family Foundation, and other private donors, Tashi Tsering, Karma Wangyal Gurung (a Mustangi cultural activist) and I spent a month in the highly restricted Lo region recording, transcribing and translating over fifty ancient Kha Lu songs.  Continuing project goals seek to refine Bhodi and Roman transcriptions and English translations of Kha Lulyrics, to digitally archive the lyrics and recordings, to circulate the collected material throughout the Lo community, and to publish a multilingual songbook and audio recording of select Kha Lu songs in partnership with Mera Publications, a Kathmandu-based, culturally-focused publishing house. Young Lo Monthang-based scholars will provide Nepali translations of the Kha Lu repertoire and a European-trained restorative artist from Lo Monthang has already begun to contribute original artwork to the songbook.  The project hopes to rekindle the Lo Monthang youth’s involvement with traditional culture, and to enable artistic preservation and cultural reinterpretation.  


May 28, 2009

Another Roadside Attraction

"Dear Jimmy," Amanda Smiled, "You're nearly normal.  All that stands between you and Wall Street is Tibet."  -Tom Robbins

May 15, 2009

लो मोंथान्ग्बता


Sorry, All, for not keeping my blog while I was away! Lo Monthang was just beginning to get it's daily allowance of four hours of electricity per evening while I was there, but internet is scarce in the region! Many postings, photos, songs and video to come when I return to the States in a few days, but for now I'll leave you with some lyrics.

TSE LUN PUMBA


This song is sung at festivals and during marriage, and is offered to the Lamas, Kings, and household heads. Many of the songs follow this format, saluting the layers of social hierarchy in the region through the verses.

From the center of the sky shines a golden pitcher.
Kept in the pitcher are precious jewels --
We will offer these to the Lama.
Outside the pitcher is the brilliant sun --
We will offer the sun rays to the laity.
Us Woman of Lo Monthang,
We tighten our boot laces to salute the Lama!

From the center of the sky shines a golden pitcher.
Kept in the pitcher are precious jewels --
We will offer these to the King.
Outside the pitcher is the brilliant sun --
We will offer the sun rays to the laity.
Us Woman of Lo Monthang,
We tighten our boot laces to salute the King!

From the center of the sky shines a golden pitcher.
Kept in the pitcher are precious jewels --
We will offer these to the Fathers.
Outside the pitcher is the brilliant sun --
We will offer the sun rays to the laity.
Us Woman of Lo Monthang,
We tighten our boot laces to salute the Lama!




SANG LADAKH YUSANG LUMBA:  

(This song is sung at festivals and weddings, it and songs like it demonstrate the history of trade between Lo, China and Ladakh).

Ladakh to Mustang is very far.
But if your mind has a good purpose, it seems close.
You can climb the Chu Lhagne Hill between them.
And when you have completed your journey,
Just think you will come back home happily.
Because distance is not so great when your heart is close to home!

In the Ladakhi Mountains, I searched for herbal medicines.
But I didn't find these medicines -- instead, I met a goddess.
At the start of my journey I offered her a katakh.
And afterwards I offered another to the great King of Lo.
It was only then that my work was complete.
Because distance is not so great when your heart is close to home!