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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

The Himalayan Recording

February 28, 2010

Economic Times
The New York Times
February 25, 2010

In 1988, when Tibet House US, a cultural
organisation in New York, held its first benefit
concert, things were not looking good for the
Tibetan homeland. It had been under Chinese
occupation for four decades, and the Dalai Lama,
its spiritual leader, had been in exile for
three. On Friday at Carnegie Hall, Tibet House
will present its 20th benefit, and things still don’t look so good for Tibet.

Riots erupted there as China prepared for the
2008 Olympic Games. Last week, the Dalai Lama,
who is still in exile, met with President Obama,
but in a concession to the Chinese government the
meeting was semiprivate; the Dalai Lama left the
White House through a back door, near piles of garbage bags.

Many would view these as discouraging signs. But
for Robert A.F. Thurman, a professor of
Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia University who
helped found Tibet House, the cause is as strong as ever.

"The Tibetans are like the Na’vi," Thurman said,
alluding with a chuckle to "Avatar," James
Cameron’s science-fiction epic. "They’re hanging
in there. Maybe not fighting with bows and
arrows, but they are staying connected to nature,
and we think they will prevail."

After two decades the Tibet House concerts, held
at Carnegie since 1994, have developed into an
institution of their own, shining a light each
year on the urgency of preserving Tibetan culture
and offering music fans starry, varied lineups.
Past participants have included David Bowie,
Moby, R.E.M., John Cale and Vampire Weekend.
Friday’s concert will include Philip Glass —
another Tibet House co-founder, who puts together
the concerts each year -- along with Patti Smith,
Iggy Pop, Gogol Bordello, Regina Spektor, Bajah &
the Dry Eye Crew, Pierce Turner and Tenzin Kunsel.

When the concerts began, Glass said in an
interview at Tibet House’s headquarters in
Manhattan, Tibet was far below the radar of most
Americans, and Tibetan refugees had trouble
assimilating into American society. "You had men
who had spent their lives studying religious
texts wrapping packages at Macy’s," he said.

Since then, the Tibetan cause has become a
regular topic of American public discourse, and
the Dalai Lama a familiar face around the world.
In 1989, he won the Nobel Peace Prize and is now
a regular presence in the mainstream news media;
this week, he was interviewed on NPR and on "Larry King Live" on CNN.

He may be dressed in robes and sandals, but his
organization is tech-savvy: on Monday, an
official Dalai Lama Twitter account began sending
out regular news updates. The concerts, which
celebrate the Tibetan New Year (Feb. 14 this
year), raise $100,000 to $250,000 each year,
according to Tibet House, a nonprofit group
founded at the Dalai Lama’s request in 1987.

Most of that money supports Tibet House, but some
of it is also sent to other Tibetan groups in the
United States. As Thurman sees it, the visibility
of the concerts and the Dalai Lama’s example of
nonviolence have drawn worldwide sympathy for the
Tibetan cause and put pressure on the Chinese
government to reconcile. "The Chinese desperately
need spirituality,” he said. “They would benefit
from the Dalai Lama’s representations and his
walking the talk of Buddhist ethics. So, as a
peacemaker and as a religious leader he likes to have a hand in China."

Glass is not as sanguine about the political
solution, and he points out that the mission of
Tibet House is strictly cultural.

Its small office is filled with centuries-old
tapestries and contemporary paintings and
sculptures that have been donated by artists and
collectors. Ganden Thurman, Tibet House US’s
executive director and a son of Robert Thurman,
said the organisation relied on donations from
artists and collectors because corporations eager
for Chinese trade are often skittish about
publicly supporting a Tibetan cause. (Tibet House
is a Thurman family enterprise: Thurman’s wife,
Nena, and one of his daughters, the actress Uma Thurman, are on its board.)

Instead, Glass said the concerts represented the
survival of Tibetan culture in a changed world
and its gradual embrace as part of the fabric of American society."

Tibet House Benefit Concert
Carnegi Hall
Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
Friday, February 26, 2010 at 7:30 PM
Tickets from $30 - $85


Philip Glass, Artistic Director
Bajah + the Dry Eye Crew
Gogol Bordello
Tenzin Kunsel
Iggy Pop
Patti Smith with Jesse Smith
Regina Spektor
Pierce Turner
Additional artists to be announced
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