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Grammy nomination a big surprise for Indian singing monk

Nomination for the coveted music award came as a surprise to Indian monk Ngawang Tashi Bapu.

india Updated: Feb 01, 2006 21:32 IST

Indian singing monk Ngawang Tashi Bapu, nominated for a US Grammy Award, says he never in his "wildest dreams" expected to be in the running for the coveted prize when he started chanting Buddhist hymns.

The unassuming 38-year-old tribal monk said he only wanted to spread peace and love in the world through his traditional Buddhist chants that were made into an album.

Bapu's album Tibetan Master Chants has been nominated in the Best Traditional World Music category for the 48th Annual Grammy Awards to be announced in Los Angeles on February 8.

"I'm very excited and also surprised at being nominated for a Grammy. I hope the world rocks with me chanting the hymns," Bapu told AFPover telephone from Gaden Rabgyaling monastery in Bomdilla in India's northeast.

Bodamilla, one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in the world with over 3,000 monks, lies 260 kilometres (162 miles) north of Guwahati.

The album is a unique collection of 12 Buddhist religious hymns rendered in Bapu's sonorous voice, accompanied by a traditional gong and cymbals.

"Vibrating my vocal chords and producing multiple overtones with deep sounds while chanting the mantras is the specialty of the album," said Bapu, a follower of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader.

"We did some dubbing so as to give the feeling that the mantras are being chanted by a huge group of people," said Bapu, who heads the Central Institute of Himalayan Cultural Studies at the monastery.

Popularly known as Lama Tashi, the Monpa tribal monk, who hails from a yak grazing family in remote Thembang village in northeast India, leaves for Los Angeles next Thursday for the awards function.

"I have dedicated my life to Buddhism and the Grammy nomination is indeed a recognition of our beautiful religious hymns that symbolise peace and love," said the tonsured monk, who began his formal musical education at 17.

The Buddhist scholar -- officially recognised as a "chant master" by well-known monasteries in India -- is not entirely new to the limelight.

Bapu toured the United States, Mexico and Canada in the 1990s and has performed at New York City's Carnegie Hall alongside such singers as Patti Smith, Billy Corgan and Sheryl Crow.

"My album which was released in the US in the middle of last year has become a hit," said Bapu, known for having perfected the Tibetan "Deep Voice", a rich reverberating singing technique used in prayer.

The album was produced when Bapu was on a vacation to the US in 2004.

"I was just humming the hymns when a friend of mine said he wanted to record the mantras at a studio," the monk, who learnt his English on his travels, constantly engaging people in conversation to better his language skills.

It so happened that Colorado-based Jonathan Goldman, author of the book "Healing Sounds" and president of the Spirit Music company, heard him chanting the hymns at the studio.

He decided to produce the album under his Spirit Music label.

"Some journalists and musicians in America asked me if I was a rocker. I said I want people listen to our hymns and get peace of mind," said the monk, who unlike most traditional Indian monks, is computer-savvy.

"I do not have much knowledge of Western music although I love listening to Indian Hindi music and folks songs," he said.

"The Grammy was never there in the wildest of my dreams," Bapu said.

First Published: Feb 01, 2006 10:17 IST