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Monday, October 13, 2008


AMA (2006)
320 KBPS

Yungchen Lhamo is a new kind of Tibetan, one who was not only forced out into the world at large, but who embraces all its possibilities. Born and raised in Lhasa, she never knew a Tibet that wasn't under Chinese rule. She fled the country in 1989 and now resides in New York City. It's at this cultural crossroads that Ama is born. Except for a raucous version of "Om Mani Padme Hung," this isn't a chant album, but original songs sung in Lhamo's native tongue. Produced by Jamshied Sharifi, an Iranian-American musician who is a master of global sounds and voices, Ama has a transcultural aesthetic, mixing traditional Tibetan chanting and singing with Middle Eastern percussion, fuzzed guitar, Chinese erhu, and African kora, among other instruments. Sharifi has probably listened to Steve Tibbetts's productions with the Tibetan nun Choying Drolma. Although he doesn't have Tibbetts's penchant for abstraction, their approach shares a certain austerity and atmosphere that makes the voice the central focus. "9/11" sets Lhamo in a multitracked choir, echoing distant chants with a simple mournful cello reflecting her sadness. Other tracks are more richly designed, like "Ranzen", which features growling fuzzed-guitar ambiences and Jon Hassell-like trumpet from Norway's Arve Henriksen. Much will be made of Annie Lennox's appearance on "Fade Away," but her performance seems overwrought next to Lhamo's restrained spiritualism.

1. Ranzen
2. Gebu Shere
3. Om Mani Padme Hung
4. Tara
5. 9/11
6. Look Down On Us
7. Nyebe Nilam
8. Someday
9. Fade Away
10. Lhasa

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