"Of Distant Memory and the Longing for Home" is the title that Michael Lohr gives to his interview with the award winning Tibetan singer Yungchen Lhamo, who has just released a new CD.

CD Cover of Tayatha


by Michael Lohr

Yungchen Lhamo's name means "Goddess of Song" and indeed her voice is wondrous. Having escaped the clutches of an oppressive Chinese crackdown on her native Tibet via a daring and heart-stopping hike over the Himalayan Mountains, she first found safe sanctuary in India. Then in 1993, she moved to Australia, eventually bravely set off for the United States with the intent to live in the city that never sleeps, New York City.

If one is going to live in exile, one couldn’t do much better than selecting New York City as a place of residence during that exile.

Thus far, she has five studio albums to her credit, including the wonderful recent collaborative effort, “Tayatha” with Anton Batagov. She has won an Australian Record Industry Association award (ARIA) for best Folk/World/Traditional album, and then signed to Peter Gabriel's UK-based, Realworld Record label.

Ms. Lhamo has toured extensively throughout the world, performing songs of her own composition and as well as traditional Buddhist chants and mantras. She has also performed at many legendary venues around the world such as London's Royal Festival Hall, New York's Carnegie Hall, and Berlin's Philharmonic Hall and the Louvre Museum in Paris.

She has performed with artists including Annie Lennox, Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Peter Gabriel, Sheryl Crow and Michael Stipe. She has also toured widely as a part of the WOMAD World music festival series. She has also sung duets with Natalie Merchant on “Ophelia” and collaborated with Annie Lennox on her CD “Ama”. Also, Ms. Lhamo's music provided the soundtrack for Brad Pitt movie "Seven Years in Tibet" as well as many Tibetan documentaries.

It was a grand pleasure to speak with such an internationally recognized musical luminary.

Q. You just released an amazing new album, a collaboration with Anton Batagov, titled “Tayatha.” Tell us how this collaboration came together.

A. My good friend Bill T. Jones, a great choreographer, introduced Anton to me some years ago. We made Tayatha as an offering to the world. Sometimes in life, we have to search very hard for the things we want. Other times, it comes easily—it manifests itself to you at the right time. This CD took some time, but I am glad that Tayatha came especially at this time. In the world, there are so many crazy and hectic things going on, so I hope Tayatha will benefit people who wish to listen, and give them hope that good times will come.

Q. Tell me about the creative process for Tayatha. How did you and Anton approach the writing and recording of Tayatha?

A. I am honored that sitting and working with Anton is different from what I have done in the past. Anton is not only a musical genius, he also knows about what it means to be a human being, and what we need to offer and do for the world. Some of the lyrics I had written very long ago, and I did not plan for these songs to be sung with a piano. I feel that Anton understood my lyrics, even though he does not know the Tibetan language—he was very in tune with the emotions and messages I wished to convey.

Q. I must say, the album as a whole almost seems to transcend music and feels like something actually quite sacred. Is there one track on Tayatha that stands out as a personal favorite?

A. For me, there is no one track that I like best, because this album is one. Tayatha is like a circle — all the songs are connected with one another. When you listen, it is one piece; it is meant to be played without interruption from beginning to end. Each song has a different meaning, but they are all connected as a whole. So I cannot Therefore I cannot say which is my favorite song, because to me, they are all one. The word “Tayatha” is a part of the Medicine Buddha mantra, which is used to heal all the sentient beings who are sick, and asks Buddha for the sicknesses to never arise again. I do pray that this album “Tayatha” will serve the people, whether they are Buddhist or non-Buddhist, to benefit from this music.

Q. Of all your albums, is there one song that stands out to you as a personal favorite? A song you believe captures the quintessential essence of your music? For me, I would have to say that “Happiness Is…” is my favorite song. That song still gives me spiritual “‘cold chills”’ to this day. (Which is a good thing!)

A. I am so thrilled that you like “Happiness Is…”. Those chills mean that you understood the meaning of the poem. I like all of the songs, generally. With all the albums I have made, I have been very lucky to meet so many all of these talented musicians. Each CD and each song has a uniqueness, so it is very hard to pick just one! “Lama Dorje Chang”, — a song on my album Tibet Tibet —, is an offering for all the higher spiritual beings and teachers and kind people in this world who have planted good seeds and spread kindness through their words and actions. I like the message of this song very much. “Middle of Nowhere”, “Look Down To Us”, as well as “Fade Away” with Annie Lennox stand out in my mind as some of my favorite songs as well.

Q. You fled Tibet in 1989, making taking an arduous many days journey of many days across the snow-covered mountains of the Himalayas, and through wind and -pounding rains with little food or , water, but with much hope and determination to get to India and freedom. Even though your trip was successful, do memories of that journey still haunt you?

A. I consider myself very lucky to have made make the journey to India. Of course the journey still haunts me. I, it was an extremely difficult time in my life. However, the teachings of Buddhism say to let go — , you cannot hold on to tragedies. I will never forget my journey, but I try to let go of these memories and live in the moment. Life is very beautiful when we live in the moment. I do not wish to live my life in the past, so I try to not allow these memories to haunt me. I also do not wish to blame anybody, and sometimes I like the Tibetan karma. We are always thinking, “Oh, this is karma!” This lets you go on, this allows you to live your life optimistically. With Tibet's spiritual leader.

Q. A while ago you established a charitable foundation a while ago, The Yungchen Lhamo Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the welfare of Tibetans in need. Tell us about your philanthropic goals for the foundation and some of your successes.

A. I started this foundation to assist Tibetans with direct relief supplies, as well as to educate and enlighten the global community about Tibetan culture and the challenges faced by Tibetans. Our current project we are working on is building an aqueduct system in Nugchu, Tibet. The residents of this area have no access to drinking water. If you like, you can go to http://www.yungchenlhamo.org/ to donate and help give these people a life free from constant worry and thirst.

Q. In 2007, you collaborated with the Tony Award-winning American dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones and the French percussionist Florent Jodelet for a sold-out performance piece titled “Walking the Line” at a section of Paris’s famed Louvre Museum. Are there any plans to bring this production to the United States? Did you enjoy this collaboration?

A. My own personal experience in the Louvre to this day, gives me chills. I do hope this production will come to the United States, as well as many other places. So far, nothing is set in stone, but I would love to have more performances like the one in the Louvre.

Q. Is there a new solo album forthcoming? In 2011 it was rumored that you working on a new album with the American US composer Jonathan Elias, after making a guest appearance on his album “Prayer Cycle 2: Path to Zero.” album.

A. Yes, Jonathan and I have worked on some songs together. He is such a talented composer. I am hoping we will finish this soon, but so far there is no official date set for when we will be finished. I also have worked with the British producer Peter Asher, and have some songs recorded with him. I have a few projects to finish in the future, with Jonathan Elias, as well as others!

Q. Has there ever been any discussion with you and some of you fellow exiled Tibetan musicians such as Techung, singer Karjam Saeji, singer Phurbu Namgyal and flautist Nawang Khechog to collaborate on an album dedicated to your homeland?

A. We have not planned anything yet. I have thought about this, but it has not manifested so far. I would be very pleased and honored to collaborate with these wonderful people! Hopefully one day it will happen.

Q. Will you tour for Tayatha? What are your plans for touring in America and Europe? What other projects are you either working on or preparing to begin?

A. At some stage, we will tour. We did two performances in June, but Right now, Anton recently had to go back to Moscow, so unfortunately we are unable to do more shows together at the moment. I hope we can do more when he comes back to New York this fall.

Right now, I have also been singing with Peter Rowan, a legendary bluegrass musician. It is the first time Tibetan music and Bluegrass music has come together. We have been exploring mountain singing, from Appalachia to the Himalayas, bringing in old songs and new. Peter Rowan has a new album out called ‘The Old School’, and we have been playing some songs from that, in North Carolina, Boston, and New York City. We are playing at the Rockygrass Bluegrass Festival in Lyon, Colorado, and the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco. It has been great fun and I am excited to continue performing with him. I am so honored to be playing with him and playing this meditational music together.

My newest project that I am beginning is a day of meditation, walking, and singing together with people in Kingston, New York. People who come to participate will learn about different mantras, such as the Medicine Buddha mantra [from Tayatha], and we will sing these mantras together to heal and release negative energy and embrace forgiveness, then go on a hike in silent meditation. If you’ are interested in participating in this, or if you want to receive my newsletters, you can send me an e-mail at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thank you for supporting my music!

For more information on Yungchen Lhamo’s music please go to her official website: http://www.yungchenlhamo.com/

To learn more about her foundation’s philanthropic endeavors, please go here:


Yungchen Lhamo’s web presence at Real World Records: https://realworldrecords.com/artist/543/yungchen-lhamo/

Yungchen Lhamo’s YouTube Channel: