Conversations | Techung
“Immigrant artists naturally face more challenges but they should never give up on their art and instead work toward finding possibilities.”
Techung is a Tibetan folk and freedom singer/songwriter/performer living in exile and a recipient of a 2018 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Folk/Traditional Arts. Last year, he was a guest speaker at the NYSCA/NYFA Artist Resources Talk at Lake Placid Center for the Arts, where he performed and shared the impact of the award on his career.
Over the decades, Techung has recorded more than a dozen albums. With the goal of reaching Tibetan children, Techung released his first Tibetan children’s music album, Semshae – Heart Songs, in 2010. This is one of the first Tibetan albums dedicated to children and is the result of seven years of research and composition. The primary goal of the project is to ensure that the Tibetan culture of compassion is preserved through children’s music.
NYFA: How has living in New York State influenced your career?
Techung: New York is a large state and at this point in my career I enjoy sharing my music and culture in smaller towns rather than in a big city. Smaller communities are more receptive to culture from outside and engaging with them is also cost-effective. I enjoy upstate New York, and the Adirondacks are good for the heart and soul.
NYFA: What opportunities are available for Folk and Traditional Arts artists in the New York State art scene?
T: As folk and traditional artists we need to stay organized and seek diverse opportunities like schools, universities, churches, house concerts, or other events. It’s also good to research for opportunities online.
NYFA: You received a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in 2018. What impact has it had on your career?
T: The NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship Fellowship inspired me to seek support from national and international organizations, such as NEA and others. I am so thankful for the fellowship.
NYFA: What advice can you give to immigrant artists?
T: Well, immigrant artists naturally face more challenges, but they should never give up on their art and instead work toward finding possibilities. There are many kind people out there—organizations such as NYFA and others who will support, give feedback, and guidance—but the drive should come from the artists themselves. It takes time and energy to succeed and one must not feel shy or discouraged to ask for help. Keep your mind, heart, and art inspired.
NYFA: You’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately. Do you have any other news to share with our readers?
T: Yes, I am in Dharamsala, India, visiting my mother. She is well and the weather is gorgeous here. I am happy to share some good news with you. About nine years ago, I worked on an album for children to learn the Tibetan language, which is now for sale. My website now has Tibetan writings. I am inspired to do this by the Tibetans in Tibet, especially the youths, who have against all odds revived our language.
– Interview Conducted by Alicia Ehni, Program Officer at NYFA Learning
After moving to the United States, from exile in India (he was born and raised in Dharamsala), Techung co-founded the San Francisco-based Chaksampa Tibetan Dance & Opera Company in 1989, which performed Tibetan music, dance, and opera at various music festivals and at the Carnegie Hall in New York. Over the decades, he has recorded more than a dozen music albums. His voice and music have been featured on the soundtracks of the IMAX film Everest, as well as feature and documentary films.
Techung has performed regularly at the Tibet House Annual Benefit Concert at Carnegie Hall, joined by prominent artists such as Philip Glass, Patti Smith, and others. He has shared stages with Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bjork, among others to promote Tibetan music and generate awareness about Free Tibet. In recent years, Techung has had the honor of opening for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s public talks in the USA, Costa Rica, and Japan.
This interview is part of the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #116. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities, and events.
Image: Techung, Photo by Judy Detor