Tenzin Choegyal: From refugee to musician and activist
The fourth Himalayan Film Festival returns to BEMAC on 7 October 2017. Presented by BEMAC at QMC and Tenzin Choegyal, the Himalayan Film Festival is an important component of Tenzin Choegyal’s activism for the people of his homeland.
Born to a nomad family, Tenzin Choegyal was displaced from Tibet at the age of four.
He spent his early years in Mustang in the north-east of Nepal after his family fled intolerable repression of the Tibetan people under Chinese occupation in the early 1970s.
Like thousands of exiled Tibetans who fled the Chinese occupation of Tibet and the violent clashes which is estimated to have killed hundreds of thousands of Tibetans during the 1950s and 1960s, Tenzin grew up in a Tibetan refugee community in Dharamsala, India.
It was in Dharamsala, home of the 14th Dalai Lama who fled to India after the failed anti-Chinese revolt in Lhasa of 1959, that Tenzin began to discover and explore his musical talents.
Tenzin has a deep connection to the music of the wandering people of his homeland. He recalls memories of his father playing the lingbu and his mother singing the nomadic songs of Tibet in his early years. These influences, and the traditional Tibetan Buddhist chants of his homeland have played a profound role in shaping Tenzin’s unique and poignant musical repertoire.
An outstanding vocalist, whose voice seems to take flight and soar above the Himalayas to find its way back to the homeland he has been denied, Tenzin is also a master of traditional Tibetan instruments such as the dranyen and lingbu.
In 1997 he moved to Australia and quickly gained national and international recognition for his original compositions whereby he expresses and preserves his Tibetan heritage and sheds light on the contemporary challenges faced by his people.
He has performed before audiences in Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, and other iconic venues and festivals around the world, successfully forging a career as a globally renowned musician, activist and philanthropist. An international icon, he has greatly increased the profile of Tibetan culture and their struggle for self-determination on a global scale.
In 2013 he founded the Himalayan Film Festival in Brisbane.
Through ventures such as these Tenzin has greatly increased the profile of Tibetan people and culture and their struggle for self-determination.
More than 60 years have passed since the Chinese occupation.
While the flow of refugees from Tibet, which in the seventies was running into the thousands has slowed to a trickle, the effort to preserve the unique heritage and culture of Tibet, of which Tenzin Choegyal is an icon, has taken on a real urgency.
The Dalai Lama’s decision to relinquish his political leadership of the Tibetan government in exile has led to anxiety and debate within the Tibetan community in exile and led the world to wonder if he is fated to be the last Dalai Lama.
A prospect explored in Mickey Lemle’s documentary The Last Dalai Lama? which Tenzin together with composer and musician Phillip Glass wrote a soundtrack for.