HITA: Bringing Himalayan people together through music

Tsering Dekey, HITA Manager, in Choglamsar on 16 July 2014.

Tsering Dekey, HITA Manager, in Choglamsar on 16 July 2014. Tibet Sun/Lobsang Wangyal

By Lobsang Wangyal

CHOGLAMSAR, India, 16 July 2014

A grand musical concert was organised in Choglamsar over five days during the just-concluded Kalachakra event in Ladakh. HITA (Himalayan International Traditional Arts) produced the show with singers from the Himalayan region. Manager of the organisation Tsering Dekey speaks to Tibet Sun about the concerts and HITA’s future plans.

1. Could you first tell us about HITA.

Himalayan International Traditional Arts (HITA) is a Japan-based organisation. The organisation was started by Shimizu Tenjin (Tenzin Dhundup) in 2013. It aims to promote understanding and friendship in the Himalayan region through music and arts. In doing so, the organisation will promote artistes and the allied businesses.

The concert in Ladakh was our first endeavour to fulfil our aims and objectives.

2. Why was Ladakh chosen for the concert?

It was due to Kalachakra being held in Ladakh, which is in the Himalayas. People from the entire Himalayan region were expected to congregate there, which they did.

3. How did the concert go? Are you happy with the outcome?

There were a lot of challenges and difficulties. But we are happy with the overall production and execution. We put together something out of nothing. Ladakh has no infrastructure for such big shows.

We had artistes from Bhutan, Nepal, and India, and many Tibetan artistes travelled from the US and Europe. The popular names include Prashang Tamang of Indian Idol fame, Nima Rumba from Nepal, Techung from US, Tsering Gyurmey from Nepal, Passang Lhamo from Canada.

The artistes were happy for the arrangements we have made. The sound system and lighting came from Delhi. A beautiful stage was built at the last minute at a beautiful location. We had thousands in the audience every day. The public enjoyed it through and through for five days.

4. You talked about challenges. Where were they?

Unlike all the previous Kalachakras, any of the shows had to get permission from the Kalachakra Organising Committee, particularly the Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), who were more enthusiastic to reject than to grant permission. Let alone supporting and helping, they tried their best to stop our concert.

As a Tibetan, I went to the Chief Representative Officer (CRO) of Ladakh, Dhondup Tashi, for guidance and support. Tashi refused to issue a letter, saying he had no authority to do so. After meeting with him several times, he finally issued a letter of no objection, but said that the concert should have the permission of LBA.

I went to LBA, who asked me to go to the Youth Wing for the final say. The Youth Wing kept postponing any decision for more than a month. Finally they said there cannot be bands playing, and that the concert should take place before or after the Kalachakra event. Any event held during the Kalachakra must be shown for free.

We respected their decisions and changed our programme: the dates were changed to before the Kalachakra, and the bands were cancelled.

Our sound system got stuck at the Punjab and Jammu-Kashmir border for two days. It was released after payment of duty of more than 20,000 rupees. We believe that there shouldn’t have been any duty as the equipment were all used ones. Then we had to change our venue just a week before the event, though we had been granted permission a year ago for the first venue at the TCV School grounds, which was centrally located.

5. Any other things that you would like to share?

Oh yes! We were happy about the successful conclusion of the shows despite the challenges I mentioned above.

What I want to share is that, a lot of rules were made by the LBA, particularly for shows during the Kalachakra. We did our shows according the rules set by the LBA, but we saw that the rules were overlooked for some. For example there were others putting on commercial shows during the Kalachakra event.began

We went to the LBA to ask about the rule of no commercial shows during the Kalachakra. The Vice President of LBA Mr Tsewang Thinles (aka Gupta) and President of Youth Wing Mr Rinchen didn’t have an answer. More than 20 LBA and Youth Wing members arrived, and along with Mr Thinles and Mr Rinchen began to shout at us with abusive words, and told us to get out. Two tried to snatch our President Tenzin Dhundup’s mobile phone when he tried to film the raucous situation.

We didn’t have the intention of creating problems for those who were putting on the shows. We only wanted to know why we were discriminated against.

6. The concert was HITA’s first step in fulfilling its goals. What next?

We will definitely do more such concerts and other programmes that will bring Himalayan people together to share our beautiful cultures and our concerns. But of course we will need the support of the local people wherever we organise events. If we face similar opposition like in Ladakh, we doubt if we would be able to continue. But since our aims are big and valuable, we hope people in other Himalayan regions will come forward and support our initiatives.

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