Lhamo brings Tibet to Rollins

by Holly Shaffer | 2/3/03 6:00am

On Thursday evening, Rollins Chapel was lit by candles and the voice of Yungchen Lhamo. A refugee from Tibet, Lhamo moved between statements about life and searing a capella vocals, finding unity in her homeland.

Through her short songs, which lilted quite beautifully through the chapel, she approximated Tibetan prayer. She tried to further this motif through small sermons, which she seemed also to think were a type of prayer: "Often the things we think are making us happy in reality only give us the slightest, most transient happiness; ultimately they have no essence and no meaning at all."

Unfortunately, her ruminations, though well-intentioned, distracted from her purpose. Declarative sentences about life never seem to unveil the mystery.

Furthermore, Lhamo's desire to bring an audience together to contemplate love and peace, though a positive effort, is again a rather difficult one. Her strategy was a sing-along. The audience repeated her Tibetan words until they became a background tone for her to layer her voice over.

There was a moment in this exercise when what she was striving for could have been realized. An audience distracted by modulating its voice gets lost in the tone, and thus in meditation. It was exciting to see an audience participate, and to hear how one's own voice can weave in and out of a collective.

Her songs, however simple and regal, would have transferred the meaning far better than her spoken attempts in English. In fact, perhaps the best part of the show was when she spoke her language to Tibetans who had come from Massachusetts to see her sing. This gesture opened the world of Rollins Chapel and resonated with a deep empathy for the horror that has occurred in Tibet.