Yeshi left Tibet when he was young, and he came to India to study. He founded Tibet World in February 2013 in Dharamsala, India. It started very small and has now become a recognized organization in the community. Tibet World is a platform where Tibet meets the world and the world meets Tibet. It aims at encouraging cultural exchanges, preserving Tibetan culture, providing education to Tibetan refugees and allowing beneficiaries to become self-sustaining. Weekly Tibetan folk shows are held at the organization, including music, dance and tales.
INTERVIEW – september 2015
How did you come to the arts?
When I was living in Tibet as a child, I really loved music. Peewang music was very popular in Tibet. My brother loved to dance and sing, but he never tried to play the Peewang instrument. So I got interested to learn, but we had no Peewang in my family. I had a carpenter friend and one day I asked him to make me a Peewang. He told me “come tomorrow, today I don’t have time”. The day after I went again, and he told me “come tomorrow, today I don’t have time”. And that went on during three months, until one day he finally told me to bring him the wood to make the instrument. But I had no wood, and that wood is not any kind of wood! You can find it only on top of the mountain. So I went to my elder brother and asked him to help me go cut the wood. So he told me “come again tomorrow, today I don’t have time”. So I went again the day after, and he told me “come tomorrow, today I don’t have time”. And that went on during six more months, until one day he went in the mountain get the wood for me. After almost one year, I finally received my first Peewang.
I was a shepherd and so I would sing songs when walking in the mountain. I didn’t have a nice voice but in nature I could make as much noise as I wanted, that made me feel very happy! And sometimes I would go on top of the mountain, in rocky areas, and I would sing and listen to the echo. I started learning music like this, by myself. That’s how you learn there, slowly! In the city it is much easier to learn music, but at least I was lucky, as the sheep never complained about my singing!
Music was just part of our life. Without arts life would be very boring. Especially nowadays, the world is so noisy – “ding ding ding”, everywhere all the time! I feel traditional music is very peaceful and more connected to our own nature. That’s why I love it.
Why are Tibetan arts important?
With globalization, the world is becoming smaller. Everything is connected. But if you travel around India and you come to Dharamsala, you feel it is different. That is because there is a different culture here. That’s why preserving culture is not only important for Tibetan people, but for the world. All cultures around the world belong to all. Now, everything is new, new, new! And we don’t know the old things any more. Tibetan folk dances, folk songs and folk tales are very ancient, and in the modern 21st century they have all become very difficult to find. But they belong to human heritage, and if we preserve them today, it is for everyone.
Also Tibetan arts are much related to peace and to nature, and I think the world needs that. This is why it is so important to preserve them. We Tibetans are responsible for preserving this heritage, but the world should support us to do so, for the benefit of all.
How do you envision Tibetan arts in the future?
I believe Tibetan arts are unique and can be of great benefit to the world. It includes so many Buddhist songs, prayers and music, as well as so many aspects emphasizing harmony with nature. So I see Tibetan arts keep being alive. Of course it is good for Tibetans to learn other kinds of music, but people from other countries and other cultures can come and learn Tibetan music. I envision exchange programs where people can share their culture, and I hope in doing so Tibetan arts will live for generations and generations.
What is amazing is that in Tibet still today, in the mountains, people still live in harmony with nature, maybe like it was in Europe during 13th century, but there it still exists today. It feels very peaceful and natural; and so that’s what is expressed in the arts. People there don’t sing to promote themselves or one person, they sing to praise nature! Today I feel we have become dependent on materials and we don’t enjoy life anymore. That’s an issue, but the world is changing slowly.
If we preserve old things, we will be able to discover new things. If we live in the new while we forget the roots, the authentic life, then the world gets lost. I feel some countries are already lost, in that sense. Tibet got invaded, and Tibetans fled and spread in many different areas, so it makes culture preservation difficult. But even in countries where there are national institutions, culture gets lost.
So it is everyone’s responsibility to preserve traditions; and it doesn’t necessarily means dedicating one’s life to the arts, but preservation starts with appreciation: if you experience arts and share the good things with the world, that’s already great.
Do you have a message for the world?
I would like to encourage everyone to keep their parents’ and grandparents’ traditions alive. And at the same time I would like to encourage them to discover new things. Don’t see your culture as yours, see it as ours. The world is our home, so let’s keep it peaceful, friendly and happy! Be compassionate, care about others, keep the world clean, and all that participates in a more peaceful world.