MCLEOD GANJ, India, 18 July 2014
As the compère of the Tashi Delek Concert in Ladakh during the Kalachakra initiation by the Dalai Lama, the last thing I said before leaving was “Thank you Ladakh” — shouted three times at the top of my voice. It was a genuine expression of my gratitude despite all the hardships and challenges faced by the concert.
The concert was organised by HITA Music Agency, which is based in Japan. The President of the organisation is former Tibetan singer and musician Tenzin Dhondup, now officially known as Shimizu Tenjin.
HITA, or Himalayan International Traditional Arts, was started with the idea of bringing better understanding and friendship among the people in the Himalayan region through music.
A small core group started to plan the concert a year in advance. The TCV School Grounds was decided on as the venue, the sound system was arranged to be brought from Delhi, a website (Kalachakra2014concert.com) was launched, artistes short-listed and intimated, and advertisement materials designed and published. Thirty lakh rupees (50,000 USD approx) was set as the budget. Tenzin Dhondup knew right from the beginning that the ticket sales, advertisements, and donations would not make it break even. He still wanted to produce the concerts in order to promote Himalayan culture and music in the world.
But as the concert drew closer, plans started to go awry. The offer of the TCV venue was withdrawn although it had been confirmed. HITA manager Tsering Dekey ran from pillar to post for more than a month to try to gain it back in vain.
The venue was changed just a week before the concert to Atak Rinpoche’s monastery. Rinpoche generously offered the venue and every possible help. The monastery itself provided an exotic backdrop for the quickly-constructed concert stage.
The sound system on its way from Delhi was held by the excise at Punjab-Jammu border for two days. After paying more than 20,000 rupees, the truck was allowed to go. The organisers were confused about the tax as the sound system was all used equipment. On top of that the officers asked for letters from the Kalchakra Organising Committee (KOC). HITA team members went to the KOC for support but they refused to issue any letter, saying it was not related to the Kalchakra.
Then at the last minute there was still a permission issue for holding the concert. The Ladakh Buddhist Association (LBA), particularly the Youth Wing, objected to the concert and threatened to stop it by any means, despite the fact that it already had necessary permissions from the Deputy Commissioner and the Police.
Since HITA was adamant to hold the concerts, the Youth Wing finally came up with a few rules regarding events and concerts: Commercial shows should be held only before or after the 3 to 14 July Kalchakra event, no commercial shows would be allowed during the Kalchakra, and no bands would be performing. In fact, the rules were not made in good faith, rather it was their attempt to mess up the concerts.
Accepting all the rules, HITA changed its schedule and cancelled the bands — inconveniencing many people since several bands had been confirmed and were planning to come or on their way.
The Youth Wing still tried to stop the concert, and had approached the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir state Omar Abdullah to intervene to stop the concerts. Since HITA had the support of the Ladakh Gonpa Association and therefore the support of the influential lamas, Abdullah expressed his inability to intervene.
So the stage was set for the first day of the show on the 29th of June. There was an impressive line-up of performers, including crowd-puller singer Prashant Tamang. For two hundred rupees as the ticket price, hordes of people gathered for the show. As words spread of a grand show, more people came in the following days. The final free show to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday saw more than 5,000 in the audience.
In all the show was concluded successfully and to the satisfaction of everyone. There was not a single case of untoward behaviour during the entire series of concerts.
A day later, HITA President Tenzin Dhondup found out that there were other shows being commercially presented after the Kalchakra had begun. He wanted the HITA team to go to the KOC to look in to this infringement of the rules.
The HITA team met with the Vice President of the Ladakh Buddhist Association, Tsewang Thinles aka Mr Gupta, and the President of the Youth Wing, Mr Rinchen. HITA President Tenzin Dhondup introduced himself, saying he was a Tibetan Japanese, and explained why and how HITA produced the concerts, and then asked about the infringement of the rule.
Rinchen replied that they were obligated to let that performance proceed as it was raising funds for the Regional Tibetan Youth Congress and the Regional Tibetan Women’s Association, who in turn had provided 800 volunteers. In fact, it was the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) putting up the shows.
Tsering Dekey then clarified that HITA was not against the performance by TIPA, but wanted to know why there was a double standard.
It was then that the Vice President Mr Thinles spoke. He asked what HITA wanted to do, and then left in a fit of fury without giving any reply to Dhondup’s question. Tenzin Dhondup asked again what they had to say about the infringement of the rule.
As no discussion was forthcoming, HITA team members started to leave. Tenzin Dhondup didn’t even get to ask his second question: Why a Tibetan CD vendor was told to close down, while a nearby Ladakhi CD vendor was allowed to carry on.
Mr Thinles then came up to Tenzin Dhondup and said, “You are from Japan? F*** Japan”, literally using the F-word, and then told the five HITA members (myself included) to get out.
As Mr Thinles shouted, more than twenty other Youth Wing members came from the nearby tents and started yelling at the HITA members, mostly shouting “Get out.” One said, “You are the ones who ruined our Kalchakra.” All of a sudden HITA became the cause of their ill-arranged and ill-managed “33rd Kalchakra”.
Another man said, “We could have thrown stones at concerts but we didn’t do that.”
Tenzin Dhondup then tried to video the raucous scene with his mobile phone. When two men tried to snatch the phone, Dhondup shouted, “You are bullying Tibetans.”
At this some of the Youth Wing members got ready to beat the HITA members, and HITA member Lobsang Tsewang responded, “Come beat us.”
A couple of Central Tibetan Administration staff members witnessed the situation. They intervened and urged the HITA members to leave.
The 33rd Kalchakra initiation by the Dalai Lama was such a blessing and a true spiritual experience. This disruption gave me the opportunity to put the teachings and the initiation into practice. Similarly I hope the Youth Wing members will learn from the experience and follow the path in the right way.
About the author
Lobsang Wangyal lives in McLeod Ganj, and edits the Tibet Sun website.