Tibetan Spell, by Jonathan Chen His soaring vocals are like waves lapping against the seashore, gently beckoning the listener to get lost in the music. The man with the spellbinding voice is Tibetan singer-songwriter Tashi Dhondup Sharzur, better known as Techung. The prominent musician, living in the San Francisco Bay area, has been hailed by many as being one of the most important keepers of Tibetan music traditions. Techung, who recently performed at the Penang World Music Festival 2008, enthralled the crowd with his swinging tunes and energetic jigs. Catching up with the man after his set, Techung displayed no airs despite being the winner of the Best Asian Album, "Techung" at the JPF Awards 2006 in Los Angeles. The award came from one of America’s largest grassroots music groups (www.jpfolks.com). As he sipped his coffee, I found Techung incredibly humble for such an accomplished musician who is fluent in many instruments including the Flute, Piwang (Tibetan violin) and Damyen (Tibetan lute). Born in Tibet, Techung migrated to India to escape the unrest in his homeland before settling in the US. “I want my renditions of Tibetan music to be as pure as possible, but I grew up in India so there are certain influences here and there in my music. His band is “kind of new”, he adds. Band members are Ralph “Kito” Rodriguez on bass, Michel Tyabji on drums and percussion and Brian Valisco on keyboards. “We only got together two months ago in Los Angeles, and now we are here,” he says with a smile. “I’m thankful that I have highly skilled musicians to work with and, on top of that, we are all good friends. The band displayed lots of maturity and control during their performance, constantly working as a team to give Techung a solid backing, not once wanting to step into the limelight. The band was formed when Techung met Tyabji on the set for the film "Dalai Lama Renaissance", which stars the Dalai Lama himself and Harrison Ford. “Techung is one of the most featured musicians in the film”, Tyabji recalls, “and we liked each others music. So we started to work on musical collaborations”. Much of Techung's music deals with what he holds dear to his heart, including issues pertaining to the environment, the condition of Mother Earth and the fight for freedom for his Tibetan countrymen. “I am always thinking of the situation in Tibet, therefore I find myself writing songs dedicated to my brothers, urging them to work for freedom as it will not be handed to them on a plate”, Techung says. “Even the Dalai Lama has stated that now is a time of survival and that if Tibetan culture is not preserved now, it will soon be lost forever.” Techung has taken it upon himself to work towards reviving traditional Tibetan art forms. “One of my missions is to revitalize traditional Tibetan music in my homeland because we are swamped with Indian and Western musical influences. “Our music needs to be saved but it is also meant to be enjoyed by many. It is encouraging that our music has received some support in my homeland.” Techung has written a song entitled Nyingtop, meaning courage, which he performed in Penang. “I wrote the song when I saw my people in exile. I saw them so lost, so this song is an encouragement for them.” Of the band’s future, Techung says there is more touring in Asia and in the US this year. By Jonathan Chen sunpeople@nstp.com.my