Tibetan nomad Nawang Khechog’s bamboo flute music has been soaring through my apartment for the past couple of weeks. This boxed-set includes 3 recordings, Rhythms of Peace, 1989, Quiet Mind, 1991 and Sounds of Peace, 1996.
Khechog doesn’t only play peaceful original music, he embodies peace in his own life. Here is a man, whose family fled Tibet in 1959 due to the Chinese invasion. Anyone who has read about the treatment of Tibetan people, especially monks thrown in prison, or having to live in exile will understand the significance of forgiveness and compassion. In fact, when it comes to Tibetan lamas and the Dalai Lama, I don’t even think the word, “enemy” exists. It’s one thing to forgive one’s enemy and another to see enemies as delusions since we are all One and the Same Being. To entertain the idea of an enemy of any kind, is to entertain an illusion of separation and to live in fear. As long as we walk that path, we will not encounter long-lasting peace.
“Born in Tibet to nomads, Nawang Khechog discovered in childhood a deep affinity with the traditional bamboo flute. In 1959, he fled to India and spent 11 years as a Buddhist monk there, before bringing his music to the West. Despite worldwide praise for his work, Nawang resolved in 1991 to return to mountain seclusion–until the Dalai Lama himself encouraged Nawang to continue to share his music with the world.”
Similar to the Tibetan vocalist and peace ambassador, Yungchen Lhamo, Khechog is humble, despite his incredible musical talent. He has been called the “Jean-Pierre Rampal of Tibetan flute,” and he has worked with such diverse musicians as R. Carlos Nakai, Philip Glass, Kitaro, Laurie Anderson, Paul Simon, Natalie Merchant, (something he shares in common with Yungchen), Paul Winter and others. He was nominated for a GRAMMY, and he served as a Tibetan Assistant Director for the film, Seven Years in Tibet. But beyond on those physical achievements, his music has been used 100’s of times by hospitals to soothe women during childbirth. This healing and meditative music also clears tension away from the body and the home. Imagine what it could do for the world.
The 1989 recording, Rhythms of Peace reflects on the Dalai Lama who was a Nobel Peace Laureate in 1989. This CD speaks about a path of non-violence and sports titles such as, Being Kind to All and The Human Heart is for Kindness. These are not just new age titles, but a way of life embodied by a man and musician in exile. Even Joan Baez was so moved by one of Nawang’s performances that she wrote the following poem, included on the back cover of this recording.
“Up above the thunderclouds beyond the wildflowers, up where the air is thin, Nawang sat silently in a cave for seven years, occasionally playing his flute at sunset. Before the notes evaporated and were transformed into an evening mist, they were heard by the mountain goats, which stopped chewing and turned their heads to listen because the god-like melodies filled them with wonderment and made them want to dance.” (Joan Baez)
Quiet Mind is less hopeful and filled with haunting sadness, a home sickness, yet, Khechog’s soaring flute ascends over the musician’s breaking heart. This CD features Tibetan bamboo flute, didgeridoo, ocarina, Incan pan pipes and silver flute. As you can tell from Khechog’s recordings, he performs not just Tibetan traditional music, but universal music that would appeal to anyone seeking peace in their hearts and lives. Although this recording does feature all the above instruments, its main focus is on breath and tranquility. When Khechog does bring in chants and the drone of the didgeridoo on any of his recordings, he reminds me of Saami yoiker Wimme’s early recordings–both artists present us with primal music that seems to hail from cavernous areas of the world or sends us back to prehistoric times. It is music that touches the soul gently, but leaves a deep impression, nonetheless. However, The Power of Morality and Patience will even leave a deeper groove and certainly the texture of this track contrasts with the first few tracks on the CD. He is an artist not afraid of using dissonance or lyrical beauty and he applies both in large amounts to his repertoire.
That brings us to the final CD in the set, Sounds of Peace. Here is a quote from the CD’s liner notes. “He brings a rare, meditative awareness to each note the moment it is played. Time seems to stand still, and the listener is invited to experience the profound inner calm that cultivates a loving spirit.”
Universal Love (2003), features a collection of 9 prayer-songs, with flute, singing bowls, bells and whistles covering the high end, and didgeridoo, traditional Tibetan chants and throat-singing covering the low end with keyboards and polyphonic percussion filling in the space in between. Tracks, 2 (Universal Love), track 7 (Four Immeasurable Kindnesses) and track 9 (Tibetan Freedom Chant), features prayers, all reflective of Tibetan Buddhism and freeing Tibet from oppression, but through compassionate means. This remarkable recording is another kissing cousin to Saami yoiker Wimme, (they both compose soundscapes with heavy drone and primal rhythms). It hails from humble heart of a man and musician on a quest for inner peace. And if someone who can create such soulful music still hasn’t achieved inner transcendence, I wonder about the rest of us. It is some comfort that we can take Nawang Khechog’s recordings along on the journey. And what a fabulous and primal journey!
Pick up one of Khechog’s recordings and feel the results for yourself. His music is truly peaceful and a powerful tool for healing. These CDs are a must in my home.
Compliments of Cranky Crow Whole Music
Patricia Herlevi is a former music journalist turned music researcher. She is especially interested in raising music consciousness. She is looking for an agent and publisher for her book Whole Music (Soul Food for the Mind Body Spirit). She founded and hosts the blog
The Whole Music Experience and has contributed to World Music Central since 2003.