NEW YORK, USA – The Dalai Lama has long enjoyed an avid following among Western musicians and, as he turns 80, both new and veteran stars are offering songs to spread his message.
Set for release Monday, July 6 on the Tibetan spiritual leader's birthday, the album The Art of Peace: Songs for Tibet II features new, remixed or previously released tracks by iconic artists including Peter Gabriel, Sting and Kate Bush.
But in hopes of reaching a younger generation, the album also includes songs by newer artists – notably Lorde, the 18-year-old New Zealander whose 2013 song "Royals" became a viral global hit, and the Icelandic folk pop band Of Monsters and Men.
The Dalai Lama "is used to the people who are already sympathetic to his ideas. He felt that he needed to be more focused on younger people who are perhaps not as familiar with his message," said Rupert Hine, the British songwriter and producer who coordinated the musical selection.
Other contributors include Beyond, the singing quartet that stars Tina Turner, as well as Irish rocker and activist Bob Geldof, US singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik and English alternative rockers Elbow.
Proceeds will go to efforts by the Art of Peace Foundation to preserve Tibetan cultural heritage.
From politics to 'celebration'
The album follows a previous Songs for Tibet album in 2008 whose contributors included Alanis Morissette, Garbage, Dave Matthews and Rush.
That album was released amid high tensions in Tibet, where an uprising against China's iron-fisted rule broke out ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
Hine said that the latest album aimed to be more about the Nobel laureate's lifelong commitment to non-violence and compassion.
The previous album "was inherently political, given that it was tied in with the Beijing Olympics," Hine told Agence France Presse.
"I was very happy to look at it from the other side of the fence as it were, and have it very much be a celebration of his 80 years on the planet," he said.
Risks for artists in China
With his peaceful, meditative message and boyish humor, the Dalai Lama has won a major following in Western countries including among celebrities such as actor Richard Gere and the late Adam Yauch of hip-hop pioneers the Beastie Boys.
Yauch helped organize Tibetan Freedom Concerts around the world starting in 1996. On Sunday, the Dalai Lama appeared at Glastonbury to encourage fans at the famed English music festival to seek inner happiness.
But with China's clout growing and the Dalai Lama's age advancing, Beijing has increasingly tried to isolate the Buddhist leader, who fled into exile in India in 1959.
Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking Tibetan independence, even though he says he is seeking greater freedoms within China.
Beijing has blacklisted outspoken artists such as Bjork – who shouted "Tibet, Tibet!" when she performed her song "Declare Independence" in Shanghai in 2008 – and banned the last Songs for Tibet album.
Duncan Sheik, who is best known for his 1996 hit "Barely Breathing" and more recently has had success writing for musicals, said that support for the Dalai Lama carried risks for artists looking to break into China's fast-growing market for music and theater.
"You don't want to get yourself in a situation where you become persona non grata for a whole billion people, but I can't really control that, and I think what will be, will be," he told Agence France Presse.
A practicing Buddhist, Sheik contributed "Sometimes," a song from his upcoming album that explores spiritual dimensions in everyday life.
"I do hope that the record is heard by as many people who might enjoy it as possible, and that it does filter in through the noise of the rest of the world and that they hear something that maybe moves them in a deeper way," he said. – Shaun Tandon,AFP/Rappler.com