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Yungchen Lhamo


Country of origin:

Tibet; currently lives in the U.S.

Type of music generally:

Ambient, ethereal, world music

Status:

Most recent release, Tayatha (with Anton Batagov, 2013)

See also:

Yungchen Lhamo's site

Wikipedia's entry for Yungchen Lhamo

Comparisons:

This isn't a *comparison* per se, but if you like Sheila Chandra, you should also check out Yungchen Lhamo. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Covers/own material:

Own; some arrangements of traditional material

General comments:

Yungchen Lhamo is an exiled Tibetan who escaped to freedom by crossing the Himalayas to India. Her name translates as "Goddess of Song" and the title is fitting. Musically, she is a wonderful singer who has released 2 albums on Peter Gabriel's Real World Records label. The highlight of her music is her incredible voice, which she uses to perform entire concerts a cappella. The music has elements that are ethereal, ambient. Her songs are deeply spiritual and often political. Well worth checking out if she sounds even vaguely interesting. Her music is so much more than descriptions can convey. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Her voice and technique are pretty amazing and she's well worth checking out, for any reason. (afries@zip.com.au)

Yungchen Lhamo does traditional buddhist music and vocals with her vocals multitracked and ambient/trance production values. (bossert@suddensound.com)

I am totally in love with the voice (and albums) of Yungchen Lhamo, Peter Gabriel's Real World Records label. (I first heard her singing backup on one Natalie Merchant song from her Orphelia cd, and I said, "oh my god, who is that?") Yungchen's voice is soooooo Dreamy, floating, meditative, haunting. If Natalie Merchant song from her Kate Bush was Tibetan. Anyone else heard her? I listen to her discs almost daily. (cyo@landoftheblind.com)

If you've ever heard any of this Tibetan singer's discs, you have an idea what I'm talking about. The music was even more transendant live. (neal)

Comments about live performance:

See her live if at all possible. She performed in Boulder last year during a national conference for students working on human rights in Tibet. She is an incredibly gracious human being, and her voice is even better live. Plus, she explained all of the songs and told us more of her life story. It was a wonderful night. (silme@ix.netcom.com)

I don't know what her albums sound like, but live she was breathtaking. She's probably around 5 foot 4, and easily had 4 feet of hair. She was a striking figure on stage in front of an altar with a large candle, flowers, a picture of the Dalai Lama and traditional Tibetan art on the walls behind her. She sang unaccompanied for roughly an hour. While I've seen people do an occasional a cappella number during a set, I don't think I've ever seen someone do a whole concert that way.
     She had some of the most amazing voice and breath control I have ever seen. She effortlessly sang complicated vocal passages while hardly moving her mouth at all. While she didn't move her feet much, her upper body, in particular her arms and hands, performed an elaborate dance to complement the music. Sometimes they moved with the melody line, sometimes they hinted at some sort of rhythm that perhaps drove the song but wasn't present. In fact, there were often long gaps between the "verses" of the songs which were bridged by the silent hand music. In fact, the only way to be sure the songs were ended was to notice when the hands stopped singing/dancing.
     She introduced each song in soft spoken broken English that was very endearing. She left Tibet 8 years ago, walking over the Himalayas with her child. (1999)
     Yungchen Lhamo did more or less the same show she did about a year and a half ago when Jeff and I saw her in Arizona. This was not a horrible thing, since that show was fantastic. It lost a bit in power and intimacy by watching from the lobby, but it was still a beautiful show. She performed a full set of completely unaccompanied voice (except for the song where she made the audience chant), with gentle dance motions complimenting the music beautifully. (8/00, neal)

Recommended first album:

Coming Home

Recordings:


Tibet, Tibet

Release info:

1996—Real World Records—1704-62363-2

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Yungchen Lhamo—vocals, arrangements

Guest artists:

Dhumkhang—dranyem
Drepung Ngakpa Monastery monks—ritual music
Gyuto Tantric College—other voices
Richard Evans—mandolin
Alex Gifford—special accompaniment
Joji Hirota—percussion

Produced by:

Richard Evans, co-producer Sam Doherty

Comments:

Primarily a cappella. It really showcases Yungchen's clear and haunting voice. Tracks that feature monks traditional chants offer a glimpse into Tibetan culture and the spirituality that is at the heart of the music. Extremely beautiful, and I am not a big a cappella fan. But the voice and the delivery are so compelling, it draws the listener in. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Coming Home

Release info:

1998—Real World Records—7-24384-57852-7

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Yungchen Lhamo—lead vocals

Guest artists:

Kent Condon—acoustic and electric guitars
Daniel Yvinec—bass
Caroline Lavelle—cello
David Rhodes—wild guitar, guitars
Hossam Ramzy—percussion
Richard Bourreau—violin
Timo Trovinen—kantele
Hector Zazou—loops & sound effects, cello arrangements
Patrick Morgenthaler—cello arrangements
Chris Liliedahl—percussion
Peter Gabriel—drones
Henry Frayne (Lanterna)—guitars, backing vocals
Sam Doherty—acoustic guitar, backing vocals
Sister Soleil—backing vocals
Ben Findlay—backing vocals

Produced by:

Hector Zazou

Comments:

This disc has a lot of the Realworld stable on it, and a few interesting others as well, and sounds sorta like a Sheila Chandra disc. The list of guest artists is amazing. (neal)

Thanks to ecto for mentioning her—I'd never heard of her before the recent discussion of Asian music on ecto. I think I can pick out bits of my favourite guitarist, Henry Frayne of Lanterna, The Moon Seven Times, and Area). In and of itself while I enjoy this album a lot I don't find it diving into my disc players as some other discs do. (Neile)

I'd heard about this artist and toyed with buying one of her albums, but I had no idea what it might sound like. Talk about her on ecto inspired me, and I am so glad. I am totally enchanted with this singer. The vocals are gorgeous. Very clear, melodic. Ambient background. It sounds simple, but it's most definitely not simplistic. Peter Gabriel's drones are kind of hard to describe, and they jarred me when I first heard them. They're only on one track though, and repeated listenings make them less, well, jarring. It sounds like really low vocals, literally like what you think droning would sound like, like throat singing. (JoAnn Whetsell)


Ama

Copy-protected disc

Release info:

2006—Real World Records—0946 333300 2 3

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Yungchen Lhamo—voice

Guest artists:

Annie Lennox—voice (9)
Joy Askew—voice (4)
Marc Shulman—electric guitar (1, 9), nylon string guitar (4, 7)
Skúli Sverrisson—national steel guitar (2, 7, 10), bass (1, 4, 6, 7, 9)
Benjamin Wittman—percussion (1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9)
Megan Weeder—violin (6, 10)
Eyvind Kang—viola (1, 4, 6, 10)
Rufus Cappadocia—cello (5, 6, 10)
Tsering Phuntsok—danyen (1, 3), gyumang, dhoungchen (3), piwang (6)
Arve Henriksen—trumpet (2, 9)
Anders Boström—bamboo flute (3, 5, 7)
Mamadou Diabaté—kora (4)
Sonam Chujur—background voice & chanting (3)
Sonam Wangdu—background voice & chanting (3)
Jamshied Sharifi—stick ambience (2), wind-driven synthesizer (4,) req, ebow, guitar (9)

Produced by:

Jamshied Sharifi

Comments:

Yungchen Lhamo's new album, Ama, is dedicated to her mother who was ill (it's unclear from the liner notes whether she's passed on or not) and it's just gorgeous. Listening to it more and more, I've become thoroughly enchanted with it. Of course, Yungchen's ethereal vocals are as stunning as always, but somehow the interplay between her voice and the instrumentation works better for me on this album than on her previous ones. The music behind her voice is more rhythmic, more modern (electric guitars and other sounds), more active and engaging. In fact, the album reminds me more of Mari Boine's work (especially Eight Seasons) than of Yunchen's previous albums.
     Joy Askew and Annie Lennox sing on 2 tracks (1 each) which are well done, not the highlight of the album, but they fit in well. Fans will definitely want to check this out, and for people unfamiliar with this amazing singer, this is a great place to start. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further info:

Yungchen Lhamo appears on Lilith Fair Volume 1. She supports the Yungchen Lhamo Foundation which works with Tibetan refugees in India, helps support single mothers, and promotes adult education.

She also appears on the compilations Holding Up Half the Sky: Voices of Asian Women, the Tibetan Freedom Concert, and The Prayer Cycle, and sang backup vocals on Natalie Merchant's Ophelia.


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for her work on this entry.

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