Words of wisdom from His Holiness the Dalai Lama feature on a new music release titled Himalayan Sessions that aims to benefit underprivileged children in developing countries. The album features recordings of local musicians in Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet and includes spoken word accompaniments by the Dalai Lama recorded in Dharamsala, northern India.
The 10-track album produced by Hawaii-based filmmaker Tom Vendetti is a compilation of contemplative compositions by several icons of world music, including the late flautist and New Age music pioneer Paul Horn (1930–2014), Emmy-award-winning composer Christopher Hedge, and Hawaiian traditional musician Keola Beamer. Spoken contributions from the Dalai Lama feature on four of the compositions, titled “Reflections,” “Morning Prayer,” “Preserving Dharma,” and “Autonomous Harmony.”
Proceeds from the sale of Himalayan Sessions will benefit the Aloha Music Camp, which provides ukuleles to children in developing countries.
“The concept behind this whole project started with a conversation that Keola [Beamer] and I had a couple years ago, and the spirit behind it is literally to try to spread the concept of aloha around the world,” said Vendetti in an announcement for the album. “The project will support bringing ukuleles to underprivileged children. One hundred per cent of the funds from the CD will go to this program.” (Rock Paper Scissors)
In the culture of Hawaii, where Vendetti lives, the spirit of aloha, which has no English equivalent, might be best expressed through the English word “love:”
Within Hawaiian culture, the concept of aloha embodies a beautiful kind of sanctity. In Western parlance, the closest embodiment is found in the word “love”. Hawaiians think of aloha not so much as a philosophical concept, but more as a way of life, the object being to try to live one’s life in a spirit of aloha, to reach out and connect with others, make good decisions, and shape one’s life under the auspices of this all-encompassing concept of universal love. (Rock Paper Scissors)
Vendetti compiled the album from music previously recorded from as early as 1991 and featured on the soundtracks of his documentary films Journey Inside Tibet, Mount Kailash — Return to Tibet, Tibetan Illusion Destroyer, When the Mountain Calls: Nepal, Tibet & Bhutan, and the Emmy Award-winning film Bhutan: Taking The Middle Path To Happiness. Many of the tracks are inspired by the spirit, struggles, and compassion of the Tibetan people and their culture.
The musical collaborators see parallels between the Buddhist teachings and the Hawaiian approach to life expressed in aloha.
“In our families, idea of aloha has been passed down for generations,” said contributing musician Beamer. “My family traces its lineage back to the 13th century in Hawaii. And the spirit of aloha was intrinsic in our family for its entire existence on this planet. Maybe it came from this sort of realization that Hawaii was just incredibly remote. And the ancient navigators who found it realized how beautiful and precious it was. We have a lot of aloha for our environment and we try to protect it as best we can. But there are many challenges as Hawaii becomes more Western-influenced, more developed, resulting in more stress to the native people of Hawaii. You know, it’s actually harder for people to live with aloha because of the challenges on every side.” (Rock Paper Scissors)
The project has its roots in a visit to Cambodia, where Beamer recalls visiting underprivileged communities and witnessing the lives of the children there. “The children were really shy, and there was almost a depressing atmosphere. They have so little and life is such a struggle, Beamer explained. (The Maui News)
“I remembered when my brother and I were children, we didn’t have any money but my mom bought ukuleles, and the ukulele brought joy into our lives—so much so that we didn’t even realize we were poor,” Beamer continued. “I thought if we could duplicate that experience in Cambodia with the children, that might be really helpful. So we brought 40 ukuleles into Cambodia the following year and brought in five teachers from Hawaii teaching basic chords to give them knowledge to play their own music.” (The Maui News)
This unconventional approach to sharing happiness eventually paid off some six months later, as Beamer related: “We started getting videos from Cambodia of the kids playing their songs in the town square with the families cheering and clapping. It was exactly what we wanted to happen.” (The Maui News)
The musical collaborators see a fundamental connection between music, healing, and spiritual transformation that this new collection aims to explore. They view the album as a bid to spread aloha and promote a more unified world, free from divisions; an ongoing effort to encourage dialogue, nurture respect, and practice engagement via education and creative projects.