Dharamsala Dispatch 6: Tibet Rhymes

BY EVA CIRNU (Dharamsala) - Tenzing Seungyi is a popular Tibetan hip-hop artist who lives in Austria. He looks and moves like many of the young performers his age.  The crowd loves him, bounces around and sings along to his electrifying rhythms.  He is a talented musician with a loyal following.

But there is more to Tenzing Seungyi – his lyrics. The words that accompany his music deliver an important message to young Tibetans.  Even in distant Ladakh, where Seungyi performed for the thousands who gathered for the Kalachakra teaching, that message resonates.  Everyone seemed to know the lyrics of his songs.

Seungyi recently visited Dharamsala where I was fortunate enough to interview him.  Off stage, he’s a charming young man, well-spoken and with impeccable manners.  We had a short conversation by the end of which my respect for his point-of-view and his musical mission had surpassed my liking of his music. It turns out that Seungyi’s songs (which I had imagined to be about bad boy stuff) are all about the Tibetan cause and the importance of preserving the Tibetan language in exile.

“My message to Tibetans in exile, and to people my age, is that without language you can’t do anything. You have to learn your own language first. I understand that in your context it is difficult to learn it, but it is important that you make the effort to learn it. My request to you is that you learn the language as well as the Tibetan texts. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!”

Once again, Tibetan artists manage to notch it up: even in an art form stereo-typically associated with violence and aggressiveness, Tibetan hip-hop artists like Seungyi and Switzerland-based Shapaley, manage to manifest positivity, humour, courage and hope.

Watch our video interview to learn more about Seungyi and to see some of his live concert performance:  Interview with Tenzing Seungyi

‘Dharamsala Dispatch’ is a series of notes from in and around Dharamsala, covering the Tibetan artistic and cultural scene through reports and interviews with prominent Tibetans involved in community events.

Eva Cirnu is the Coordinator of the Canada Tibet Committee’s francophone section. She is currently living in Dharamsala.

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