Month: December 2011

Spotlight on: Dagyap, “Brothers on Fire”

Dagyap is a Tibetan hip-hop artist born and living in India. Just twenty-one years old, his real name is Sonam Chopel. He is known for releasing music that relates to the various problems that Tibetans face in exile. According to his facebook page, his influences are Jay Z, Tupac, the Game, and the Dalai Lama. That should give you a hint of what you are about to hear. 

Dagyap has not responded to my requests for an interview, unlike some other Tibetans in the exiled music scene. Yesterday he released a new piece on YouTube called “Brothers on Fire,” and I wanted to use this post/his spotlight to discuss the piece. If you need some background on the recent immolations of several Tibetan monks/nuns, consider reading the following articles, and the video that follows in this post:

I hate to include this video, but hold your breath and take a look [graphic warning]:

Now that you’re [hopefully] disgusted by this, and by your ignorance of its recent occurrence [13 times] in protest of the Chinese occupation, let’s take a look at Dagyap’s newest release, “Brothers on Fire” –

Before I continue, I’d like to mention [in case you aren’t aware] that as Marie Marshall recently said to me in another context, “The United States is in bed with China” – therefore nothing has/will be done about this via the United States. Tibet is virtually invisible in the American media, and our ridiculous relationship with China is the reason why (though with that said, the same ridiculous relationship may end up helping us face whatever is about to happen in North Korea as a result of Kim Jong Il’s death).

As you saw, the video opens with a salute for surviving the brutal Chinese mayhem.  The lyrics are as follows: 

(I had to type the lyrics into a text edit window and paste it as an image here – wordpress hates lyric formatting apparently)

This is musical expression that seeks to invoke change. This piece is framing an era, commenting on the current affairs of Tibetans while simultaneously reminding us that no one, including the UN, is doing a thing about it. Many musicians are social activists, and Dagyap is no exception.  The Tibetan issue is one of  global importance.  Hip-hop artists in the United States and South African have used their music as a means to disseminate the message of racial oppression, and artists in Indonesia have used hip-hop to speak out against government injustice and Islamic rule. Dagyap, and other Indo-Tibetan artists, are doing the same by sending this message: the Chinese are killing Tibetans. They are attempting to exterminate them.

Hip-hop in the Tibetan diaspora is a fairly new genre, as my forthcoming dissertation** [and hopefully, a few conference papers before then] will discuss.   In this piece, Dagyap names his oppressors, calls for change, and ends with the phrase “Bod Gyalo!” – illegal on Chinese soil [including the Tibetan autonomous region], this means “Victory for Tibet!” Here, here.  Congratulations to Dagyap on this outstanding piece of social commentary. Let’s share it with the stakeholders who give a damn, and more importantly, with those who don’t…

 

(**First I have to get this thesis churned out!)

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impermanence

Impermanence

Winter always makes me miss New England. Today I went Christmas shopping with my partner – it was above 70 degrees and I wore a sleeveless shirt and sandals. There are palm trees in the parking lots. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to it, even though I’ve spent more than a decade living in the South. I sat in the car for a bit as I waited for her to come out of Target, and as both our iPhone batteries had died, I was left with my thoughts (a rarity). She had mentioned earlier that when she was waiting for me at a different store she closed her eyes and listened/timed the shutting of car doors in the parking lot, so I decided to do the same. If you’re curious, based on our ‘sound’ findings, Marshalls was busier than Target with an average ratio of 10:32 seconds between doors shutting.

Meanwhile as I said, I was left with my thoughts and so I have been considering these spiritual seizures of mine (see previous post) and most importantly, how I can develop goals.  Every choice we make involves some kind of purpose, so in order to climb out of this hole I need to know the purpose which will lead to the significance of the next path I choose to take. I apologize if I’m being a bit more reflective than usual – I get this way a few times per year. I do have a musical post to construct at some point in the next day or so…

I found myself considering the fleeting momentary nature of existence and of my experiences while sitting in the car.  For the past year and a half, so much of my existence has been sitting in front of words. I’m either reading or writing them – all the time. I’m sitting in front of this metal/plastic contraption (Vicki II, my MacBook), straining my eyes. It seems that even when I’m sitting still, in front of my computer, or in front of a book, I’m in a hurry.  Each moment disappears as quickly as it arrived – even as I type this. When I look back on this, what will have mattered? I have goals in mind and with each passing day, I’m getting closer to each one. That’s what keeps me on this path. So consider,  which of our actions are worth cultivating?

I suppose I’m getting into the concept of impermanence here – of course the realization of impermanence is the very reason why Siddhartha left his palace to seek enlightenment.  There is a sense of urgency in knowing that all things pass – not just people or sentient beings but experiences and objects, too. I’ve been fearful, since I was very young (7 or so), of being left with remorse over not “spending my time wisely” – which is one reason I take on too much. I know so many people, and you probably do as well, who simply live out their lives without an ounce of conscious thought, living and acting out habits/patterns and not considering the impermanence of life. My mother for instance, has spent her entire life acting out this scenario: waking up, making coffee, showering, drinking coffee while watching the news, leaving for work, spending 9 hours at her desk selling kitchens, going home, eating dinner which almost always includes meat/potato/vegetable, drinking several beers while watching tv, falling asleep – repeat. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think to myself, “I will never let that be me.”  There is simply too much to do on this planet.  Cultivation then, is a matter of personal integrity.

My goal this week is to deprive myself of reading anything at all for a day. This feels more radical than it probably is, but I’m curious about what my head will lean towards doing once I put away my books, my iPhone, and my computer. It’ll probably be later in the week, as I am still receiving student emails regarding grades… but soon. Just as an experiment.

Time to wrap gifts…

Next post hint: Lyric Analysis of Chinese Oppression. 

emergence

Sanskrit blogging on the rise

For the past several years I’ve kept a copy of Julie Cameron’s The Artist’s Way close to my nightstand.  I’ve read it through several times, yet most often I pick it up and review a few passages when I’m feeling the need to reroute myself. I bring it up today not only because my dog decided this morning that it was a good binding  to chew on, but because one particular paragraph fits today’s existence:

We learn what we want and ultimately become willing to make the changes needed to get it. But not without a kriya, a Sanskrit word meaning a spiritual emergency or surrender. (I always think of kriyas as spiritual seizures. Perhaps they should be spelled crias because the are the cries of the soul as it is wrung through changes). (Ch. 5)

I would like to modify this definition/understanding a bit, because throughout the past twenty years I’ve picked up some sanskrit through buddhist teachings. Kriya is typically linked with a branch of yoga – it is analogous to achieving a specific [physical/spiritual] result through the cyclical completion of asanas (yoga postures).  I would link the concept of kriya with spiritual emergence rather than spiritual emergency.  Slight difference, same etymology – and I’m only modifying it because today we tend to think of the words “emergence,” and “emergency” differently.  Kriya then, involves the emergence of coiled energies (kundalini – a serpent coiled at the base of our spine) to unblock the spiritual and physical self.

There is a point to all of this. The past four months (the fall semester) have been difficult, and today I came to the realization that my body, my identity, my spiritual self – are all enduring these spiritual seizures. To paraphrase another concept from Julie Cameron, I need to intervene by performing some sort of spiritual chiropractic method. My work suffered horribly this semester because I stepped over the threshold of do-ability and feasibility, allowing myself to take on far more than I could handle. Last year went so well that, as I have done my entire life, I thought to myself, “I should step it up.” Well, now that I’ve potentially screwed myself out of a plethora of opportunities as a result of an almost-arrogant confidence in my ability to multitask, I need to breathe and consider how to carefully take my next steps.

In order to ensure the quality of my work continues to develop, I need to spend the next two weeks (winter break) re-identifying the self that I lost in the process of seizing – but for the first few days I need to allow myself to stop seizing by simply resting.  I have to develop boundaries to arrive at some semblance of clarity before this next semester begins, as it consists solely of thesis writing (and thus I need a great deal of self-discipline).  On a pragmatic level, this means re-aligning my personal relationships, fostering integrity, and wiping the foggy mirror clear of the blur I’ve allowed to settle in place of my kundalini energy.

That’s all for now…

productivity & its relationship to place

Sometimes the best academic discourse entails a few sarcastic lines in an email shared between a few folks. I’m not sure why I’m starting off with that, but for today, it works.

Okay listen, I’m sitting in this super posh resort hotel room in Destin for the day. There’s a Harry Potter marathon on ABC-Family, and I have a balcony overlooking the ocean. In other words, I’m set. I wish this could be the setting for all of my weekend work-days. Although I’m planning to run down to one of the resort restaurants to find sustenance, the majority of my day will be spent sitting here on the balcony with the ocean as my soundtrack – grading and writing, grading and writing (okay so there may be a bottle of merlot involved at some point soon).

I have found lately that I need to change my work location quite frequently in order to stay productive. At one point this past week during a marathon three days without sleep, I chose to sit at a friends’ kitchen table for eight hours while everyone in the house slept. It may have been the most productive eight hours of the semester, and I think it was simply due to the venue change. This is why I’m hopeful for the productivity that will ensue out of my current location. I think it’s also because the hotel room is not full of “things.” It’s not cluttered with junk, household things, dogs, dog fur, or piles of books and responsibilities. In other words, it is lovely.

 

So with that rant, I think sitting in a hotel room a couple times per semester on weekends just to get work done may become a personal ritual.