Gyuto Monks The Perfect Jewel: Sacred Chants of Tibet Review

BBC Review

This CD is not for the faint hearted. Some may find it makes them tense. Others may...

Nick Reynolds 2002

Eleven men chanting. In very low voices. Deep in the throat.

Continuously for twenty eight minutes.

Then with the accompaniment of small bells, cymbals and horns for another twenty nine minutes. Building to a chanted climax.

This stuff goes back a long way. To 1474, in the Christian calendar.

"These chants are not meant as entertainment, but as prayer", it says sternly on the CD sleeve.

But, a strange paradox: these eleven monks are overdubbed so as to create the effect of a much bigger choir. And these selections are edited sections, highlights, if you like, of chanting that may last for much, much longer. For hours or even days. Hours condensed into eight minutes. Almost a "best of". And the digital recording is superb. Is this devotional music being packaged as entertainment?

No, it's political.

The Gynto monks are Buddist exiles, expelled from their homeland by the Chinese government. They now live in Northern India. They tour the world with this music to raise funds for their monastery.

Vibrations in the throat and the air produce physical effects. This CD is not for the faint hearted. Some may find it makes them tense. Others may find it relaxing, uplifting, empowering, even healing. It cured my headache.

These are the voices of people who believe in a higher power. And the power that comes from this sound is almost tangible.

Why are the monks, and their voices, in exile? Why is it that people with a great deal of political and material power find them so threatening?

Listen to this CD. Find out.

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Cheb i Sabbah - Krishna Lila

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