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cd cover Yungchen Lhamo
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Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism are subjects on the radar screen of most globally-conscious people, a good many of whom seek out Tibetan-based music for meditative, empathetic or enjoyment purposes. Yungchen Lhamo, a Tibetan expat living in New York City, makes music that pretty much nails all three. Ama, dedicated to Lhama's mother (whose resilient spirit enabled her to survive brutal oppression by the Chinese), has numerous reflective moments but breaks into some healthy grooves as well. If you want to label this as Tibetan with a "world" slant to it, you could do so in good faith. There's an African kora on one track, Arabic percussion on a number of them, vocals in English by Joy Askew and Annie Lennox, even some steel guitar. Ama never cheats its essence, though, its songs addressing Tibetan viewpoints on beauty, prayer, exile, hope, 9/11 and the Dalai Lama. Lhamo's singing soars far and wide into the upper registers, easing through an acapella piece like "Someday" as steadfastly as it punctuates the dramatic choral surges, rumbling percussion and searing violin of "Ranzen." The disc could have benefitted from perhaps one more uptempo track and at times there's an excess to the production that seems to reach for an extra level of ambience that's not really needed. Still, if you're seeking out edifying music with a distinct Tibetan feel, you'll find it on this admirable release. - Tom Orr

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