Nawang Kechog is a Tibetan composer and performing artist. A former hermit monk who picked up his musical instruments late in life, today he is one of the most renowned Tibetan musicians on the global stage. VOA's Brent Hurd introduces us to this talented performer.
High in the mountains, Nawang Kechog creates Tibetan music: sounds that have reverberated through the Himalayas for centuries. But he is actually in the Rocky Mountains in the western part of the United States, a home away from home that has become his base from which he travels to bring the sounds of Tibet to the world. Nawang says meditation inspires his music. He continues a daily practice that he honed over a decade as a Buddhist monk.
"I try to create music that hopefully helps people bring some peace of mind,” says Nawang. "And at the same time, try to inspire them with the value of love and compassion.
Today, Nawang is one of the most celebrated Tibetan musicians in the West. He has produced more than 20 albums and played with top musicians including Paul Simon, Kitaro and Philip Glass. And he was even nominated for a Grammy -- America's top music award.
He began playing musical instruments late in life and creates experimental sounds by mixing traditional Tibetan windpipe instruments with Australian aboriginal and indigenous North American instruments. Such fusions of sound have now reached a global audience.
On stage in Japan, Nawang also addresses the plight of his homeland. "We Tibetans lost our freedom almost a half-century ago. But our struggle remains one of the very few struggles in the world completely based on a nonviolent approach.
Nawang has opened many international conferences with his melodies and says his most exhilarating performances are opening the Dalai Lama's talks. He was an assistant director and actor in the movie, Seven Years in Tibet.
He has taken his activism for Tibet's future even further when he fasted for 10 consecutive days outside the United Nations.
Since 1996, he has worked with the Peacejam Foundation, an international education program organized by 12 Nobel Peace Laureates. He trains youth in compassion through his "Awakening Kindness" workshops.
Recently, he joined Deepak Chokra and others to create a video game called "The Journey to Wild Divine."
"More than 99 percent of the video games out there in the world today are very violent,” he says. “This is one of a very few games that is not violent but it is very peaceful. The theme is peace and spirituality."
It is his drive to bring peace and compassion to the world that keeps Nawang meditating and playing his music, be it in Carnegie Hall or in the Rocky Mountains.