Ngawang Lodup is a former Tibetan monk-turned-singer who performs traditional nomadic ballads and contemporary Tibetan folk songs on electric mandolin and dramnyen lute and also has a fascinating life story which led him to arriving in the UK ten years ago. He has been performing across Europe for the last decade as a highly sought after singer amongst the Tibetan community in exile, appearing at festivals in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain.
This year has seen a meteoric rise in Ngawang's profile when he became the first World Music artist to join the "BBC Introducing" initiative, leading to widespread national press coverage, performances and interviews on numerous radio stations, festival performances (including WOMAD) and an appearance at the O2 in London when the Dalai Lama appeared there on 19 September. Speaking of this, Ngawang said:
“I'm absolutely honoured to be performing at the public talk by his Holiness the Dalai Lama at the 02. His Holiness is an inspiration to millions around the world and has dedicated his life to peace, compassion, freedom and religious harmony.
“When I left my homeland over a decade ago I could never have dreamt my songs would one day be played on BBC Radio 3 or to express my sincere gratitude to his Holiness the Dalai Lama through my music. It is a very magical feeling and I feel very blessed.”
Ngawang comes from long line of famous Nomadic singers in the Amdo region of Tibet – a beautiful but harsh environment known for fine horses and wild grasslands. His family herded Yaks & sheep and taught Ngawang his unique repertoire of mountain songs from an early age while he was carried by day on his mother’s back as she tended their herds. Each evening Ngawang’s musical education would continue further when his family would sit & share stories about noble Tibetan folk heroes defeating cruel Warlords and sing songs in praise of the snow mountains - after which his brothers would instruct him in the ancient art of the Dramnyen six-string lute.
He was recently featured in a piece by Robin Denselow in Songlines magazine (issue #111) which explored his early years in Tibet, his journey to the UK and the remarkable transformation in his musical career over the past 12 months. In accordance with Tibetan tradition, being the youngest son, Ngawang joined Achok Gonpa Monastery and became a Monk when he was 14 years old, studying the teachings of Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) Buddhism for five years. The article relates that while studying there he realised that “music is part of my life” and that he continued to play the mandolin in secret “without the discipline masters knowing about it.” He eventually left the monastery because Chinese government restrictions meant there was “no religious freedom in the monastery” but, returning to his family to perform as a musician, he found that there was also no artistic freedom either. His escape was dramatic, trekking for 18 days across the Himalayas, he reached Nepal and finally settled in the UK in 2004.
In addition to his performance at the Dalai Lama’s public address on 19th September, Ngawang will be appearing at the Musicport in Whitby on 18th October, some of his music will be released on Cassette Store Day (17th October), and has an album due for release next year.
We are delighted to be able to present Ngawang in the intimate setting of the Lantern Theatre where you can hear him talk about more about his remarkable story; learn about the instruments that he plays; explore the music, traditions, culture and society in Tibet; hear some truly astonishing music - which is transforming and developing at an astonishing rate; and of course get the chance to ask the questions that interest you. He will be playing bigger venues next time you get the chance to see him.
Discover the soul and story of modern Tibetan music
Friday 27th November 2015, doors 7.30pm: on stage 8.00pm
The Lantern Theatre, Sheffield