U.S. Tibet House Welcomes the Year of the Water Rabbit with 36th Annual Benefit Concert

U.S. Tibet House Welcomes the Year of the Water Rabbit with 36th Annual Benefit Concert

Last night, Tibet House Us (THUS) put on the 36th iteration of their annual benefit concert at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Throughout the evening, the concert–curated by Philip Glass–explored the beauty, culture, struggle and future of Tibet while also bringing attention to self-awareness, breath and the parallels between Tibet and Ukraine.

The evening began with six monks adorned in red and yellow and equipped with bells, cymbals, and drums and their voices to draw in the attention of the crowd. After their chants and a respectful quiet in the crowd dispersed, the monks removed their hats and bowed. American Buddhist author and academic Bob Thurman thanked them and took to the stage to share his opening remarks. He reflected on the longevity and importance of the evening before requesting applause for the glory of Ukraine. He also touched upon the Buddhist practice of minimizing violence but defending nonetheless for the sake of peace. “Glory to Tibet, which will one day rise,” he shared before stepping off the stage, making way for the curator of the evening, Glass.

Glass was joined by Alex Grey, Saori Tsukada and Tenzin Choegyal, all of whom united for “Be The Sky,” a meditative soundscape, on which Glass and Grey played piano while Tsukada and Choegyal added their earnest and raw vocals, through singing and storytelling. The musical introduction established a palpable tone before they shared their appreciation with the crowd, and Laurie Anderson stepped on stage.

Anderson was met with great applause, which she swiftly steadied for the sake of a sonic mediation that she hoped would connect the room. She welcomed audience members to find their inner tune and adjust it to the tone of those next to them until there was a sonic collective–soon, the theatre was slightly rumbling. She was then joined by Martha Mooke for an exploration of lullabies. “I love the song ‘Twinkle Little Star’,” she mused; she pitched her voice down and focused on the lullaby’s second verse, which she called “apocalyptic” in her shifted, seemingly bottomless timbre. “When the blazing sun is gone/When he nothing shines upon/ Then you show your little light/Twinkle, twinkle, all the night,” she sang.

Next, Grammy-award-winning singer, composer, and producer Arooj Aftab went on stage and showcased a bit of stand-up as her guitarist swiftly handled some technical difficulties. As her song “Saans Lo,” which translates to “breathe,” began, a lull went over the attendees as many closed their eyes and looked inward, as Aftab’s exquisite and moving cadence washed over them.

Following the one-song performance, the evening was officially underway as Patti Smith Band stepped on stage, marking their 28th appearance at the event. They shared that Smith would not be joining for the evening. However, the band, who would remain on and off stage, made sure her spirit was. They then started marching with the intro of the iconic Jefferson Airplane tune “White Rabbit” in honor of the new year (the year of the water rabbit, which follows the year of the iron tiger). After their performance, the band shared their appreciation for the event, which introduced them to so many musicians and welcomed the latest addition to the list of musicians they’ve discovered to the stage, Allison Russell.

Russell opened her segment of the performance with a euphonious clarinet piece, with assistance from the string section. The opening shifted to “4th Day Prayer,” which then segued to an overture. Russell then took the energy up a notch with “Nightflyer.” In between songs, she spoke about unity and freedom, saying, “none above, none below, we are one under this listening sky.”

Choegyal then returned to the stage to play “Snow Lion,” a track about strength and grace, which came through his presence: The song was played with reckless abandon, and he maintained himself as the performance accumulated in volume and passion.

Next, pianist Marc Anthony Thompson took his seat, and a spotlight fell on him. He performed “Like a Nurse” and “Letter to Hermione” before a stunning figure stepped out from the wings of the stage and glided to the mic – Thomson’s face lit up. The figure in question, adorned in a black gown, joined Thompson on “She Smiles,” her tone drifted on his playing and harmonies like a morning summer fog. After introducing his guest as his favorite living songwriter and daughter, Zsela, the two continued on for a rendition of “Place.”

After the tender performance, boygenius took to the stage, marking their first public appearance since 2018. The trio, comprised of Phoebe Bridges, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, shared a rendition of a song that was released earlier that day, “Not Strong Enough,” with familiarity, kinship and skill and continued to do so as they debuted an unreleased cut from their upcoming LP and an ode to Paul Simon titled “Cool About It.”

A short pause followed, and stagehands got things set up for the Philip Glass Ensemble, who would soon lay out what sounded like thousands of notes over just one song in masterful fashion. Michael Riesman led the endeavor as the minimalist, complex arrangement of “Spaceship” unfolded and twisted inwards to itself – saxophone, flutes, and the string section chased the keys in a sophisticated, knowing style.

The New Order came next, and Zsela joined them for “Bizarre Love Triangle.” They continued tapping their rock-and-roll inclinations on “Sex Object.” The English rock band led by Bernard Sumner had the room rocking as “Shadow Play,” preparing the members of the refined masses to prepare themselves for the final act of the evening, Gogol Bordello.

Gogol Bordello’s frontman Eugene Hütz wasted no time locking into the sociopolitical areas of the night and reminisced on the past year that has passed since the Russian government began its invasion of Ukraine. He spoke about Ukraine’s spirit, strength and inevitable victory. The New York-bred band then ripped through fight songs “Era of the End of Eras,” “Universes Collide,” and “Forces of Victory,” Hütz and his team moved all over the stage showing their enduring and everlasting spirit through boundless energy.

The evening came to end as Hütz, without pause, towered over the crowd chanting “People Have the Power” as the rest of the company joined for one more moment to connect and inspire change.

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