Since her 1989 pilgrimage on foot from her beloved homeland of Tibet, Yungchen Lhamo has emerged as the world's leading Tibetan vocalist. From the quays of Sydney, Australia to the spotlight of New York’s Carnegie Hall, her haunting a cappella performances have enchanted audiences in more than 70 countries and garnered critical praise worldwide.
Her music has been described as “brilliant” (The New Yorker), “sublime” (Rolling Stone), and “spine-tingling” (The Times, London); she has been called “angel-voiced” (Newsweek) and praised for her “pristine, gliding vocal lines” (The New York Times).
Dressed in a traditional gown of cream-colored silk with orange cuffs and turquoise jewelry, and with her luminous black hair cascading past her waist, Yungchen casts a regal presence onstage, described by one journalist as "more like a head of state than a musician on her first trip to America" (Rhythms Music).
Born in the beautiful capital of Lhasa, Yungchen was named by a Tibetan lama after the deity Sarasvati, the Hindu/Buddhist goddess of knowledge and the arts. She learned devotional singing from her grandmother.
Arriving in India after her sojourn across the Himalayas, Yungchen visited several Tibetan refugee camps, performing for an audience that included the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for whom she has performed numerous times since.
"When I left Tibet, I lost everything," Yungchen recalls. "The one thing I didn't lose was my voice. And this I carried with me to the West."
Yungchen lived first in Australia, then emigrated to the United States. Following the 1995 release of her breakthrough album, Tibetan Prayer, which won the ARIA Award (Australia’s equivalent of the Grammy Award), she was signed to Peter Gabriel's prestigious Real World Records label and has since released three widely acclaimed albums: Tibet, Tibet (1996), Coming Home (1998), and Ama (2006).
Yungchen has collaborated with luminaries such as Natalie Merchant, on her platinum-selling Ophelia, as well as with Philip Glass, Annie Lennox, Michael Stipe, Billy Corgan, and Sheryl Crow. Her songs have been featured on compilation albums including Prayer Cycle and Lilith Fair Live, on the soundtrack to the Hollywood film Seven Years in Tibet, and in a handful of documentaries.
In 2007, Yungchen collaborated with Tony Award-winning American dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones and French percussionist Florent Jodelet for a sold-out performance piece titled 'Walking the Line' at a section of Paris’s famed Louvre that had never before been used as a stage.
She has performed for spiritual and political leaders across the globe in support of Tibetan organizations and international aid groups such as Amnesty International. Through her arresting music, which explores Buddhist themes of spiritual pilgrimage, soul searching, and a delight in the natural environment, she hopes to share Tibet’s rich cultural heritage and the innate grace and goodness of the Tibetan people with the rest of the world.
Most recently, in Italy, Yungchen was gifted the city of Silanus’s esteemed “Funtana Elighe” journalism award and was recognized by the province of Genoa as a “Messenger of Peace” as well as given the title of “Ambassador of Culture.”
Yungchen lives and makes music in New York City, where she is currently at work on her much-awaited fourth U.S. album and from where she heads The Yungchen Lhamo Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the welfare of Tibetans in need.