GREAT Concert at Carnegie Hall Monday

WHO: Philip Glass, Patti Smith, Michael Stipe and others.
WHAT: Tibet House U.S. annual benefit.
WHEN: Monday.
WHERE: Carnegie Hall, 881 Seventh Ave.; box office or CarnegieCharge at
HOW MUCH: $35 to $108.

Buddhist Tibetan culture does not place great value on material gains.

That is why the Tibet House U.S. benefit concert exists mainly to raise awareness,
not to raise funds.

Robert Thurman, founder of Tibet House
U.S., uses the proceeds of the annual
concert at Carnegie Hall to cover the
expenses of the organization, which was
formed in 1987 to help preserve Tibetan

This year’s concert features a bevy of big
names — renowned composer Philip Glass,
Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Ray Davies,
Deborah Harry and Lou Reed, Patti Smith,
R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, Ben Harper and
Icelandic sensation Sigur Ros make up the

“All the artists have to have some
connection to Tibet,” said Thurman, who is
also a professor at Columbia University. He
once studied alongside the Dalai Lama,
Tibet’s spiritual leader, and has known him
for 40 years. “Some may have a more
political [reason] about wanting to help a
downtrodden people, so they may have a
human rights agenda on their mind. Some
may have a spiritual connection to Tibet.

“The artists are very busy, and they do it
for free. No one comes just for the heck of
going and singing a song.”

Tibet has long contested China’s claim of
sovereignty; its exiled government in India
claims occupying forces have tortured and
deposed Buddhist monks, and rights
groups frequently allege human rights
violations. Exile groups say the traditional
Tibetan way of life is threatened.

“Tibet politically is in a bad way,” said
Thurman. “It doesn’t look good at the
moment. But what I always refer to is 1988:
The Cold War is going strong, and who
would have said that Russia would
withdraw and the Soviet Union would be
over shortly? But it happened in the
twinkling of an eye.

“The Tibetans are happy to be in a big
brother relationship with China if the
Chinese weren’t colonizing it.”

Proceeds from the benefit will go directly
to Tibet House, which will donate a portion
to the Tibetan Association of New York and
New Jersey, Farm Aid and the Karin Berg
Fund for the Myositis Support Group.

The Carnegie Hall showcase always
coincides with the first two weeks of the
Tibetan new year and begins with
traditional chanting from Tibetan monks.
In past years, the artists who followed the
chanting were just as impressive as this
year’s lineup: David Bowie, Paul Simon,
Sheryl Crow and Moby have all graced the

With so many musicians set to play,
collaborations are the best way to allow
each performer more than his or her
handful of songs. Each benefit is a mixed
bag of solo and joint performances — in
2000, for instance, then-Phish guitarist
Trey Anastasio performed one song with
ex-Talking Head David Byrne and another
with Glass.

“The Tibet House is neither spiritual nor
political — it is a cultural preservation
organization,” said Thurman, whose
organization is on Manhattan’s West 15th
Street. “We don’t grind a particular
political ax or proselytize — we’re just
presenting an endangered culture.”

Tibet House offers an art gallery, library
and archive and is developing a
Repatriation Collection for particular
pieces the museum hopes to one day
restore to Tibet. The organization is
piecing together a traveling gallery as well
as print and media publications that will
provide information about Tibetan art and

While there are pockets of militant
resistance against the Chinese, Tibetans
largely follow the Dalai Lama’s preachings
of non-violence.

Said Thurman, “The Tibetans aren’t
insisting on a big revolution, but they are
really determined to stop the colonization
and suppression of their religious culture.”

He sees reason for hope this year. Thurman
said that the Tibetan lunar cycle has 12
animals, and this is the year of the “fiery

“The Dalai Lama [was born in] the year of
the pig,” he said. “The pig is very
determined, like a wild boar. It’s a powerful
year. It’s an auspicious thing.”



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