About the soundtrack
All vocalists in the soundtrack for the film From Nomad to Nobody are Tibetan. Tibetan nomads have a rich lore of poetic songs, accompanied by simple instruments such as the dramnyen (six-string Tibetan lute played by plucking the strings) or the piwang (two-string fiddle played upright with a bow). Some sound-bytes from the film:
- Dramnyen Zhabdro
A traditional folk song from the Lhasa area that changes pace half a dozen times in the course of the vocals. Percussion is provided by foot-stomping. From the album Drayang, by the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, Dharamsala. Surprisingly, for such an upbeat song, the song makes poetic references to pilgrimage sites like the sacred peak where Milarepa lived (*see note below on Milarepa).
- Mang Lu
Song about the yak-hair tent, used by Tibetans for thousands of years, and specially designed for the harsh environment. The vocals are sung a capella, with some horse and wind sound-effects added in the background. High-spirited yodelling is evocative of life on the grasslands. Vocals by Gonchok Kyab, appearing on the album Shining Spirit, by Jamyang Yeshi.
- Offering to Guru Rinpoche
Guru Rinpoche is a patron deity in Tibet, often invoked with special prayers in times of distress. The Tibetan female singer was originally recorded a capella by musician Victor Chorobik, who later added instrumental backing. Both versions have been blended in the documentary. The song will appear on Victor Chorobik's new album Khorlo, the follow-up to Desert of Clouds (released in 2008).
- Tam Cha
This song is a homage to the Dalai Lama: "the truth of freedom will forever be realised by following you." The instrumental backing blends Tibetan and Western instruments. Original composition by Ngakpa Kalzang Dorje, with vocals by Jamyang Yeshi, from his album Shining Spirit, which goes with a short documentary also called Shining Spirit (directed by Karen McDiarmid), released in 2009. Jamyang Yeshi is from a nomad family: he escaped across the Himalayas in 1998 and found his way via India to Canada. He has toured in Europe and North America.
*The 11th-century sage Milarepa never founded any monasteries. Instead, he lived in remote caves, dining on nettle soup, meditating and composing songs. He enlightened his students through music and poetry, and is depicted in temple paintings with his right hand cupped to his ear, to better hear the music of the spheres. He is credited with the poem, Hundred Thousand Songs. And that was a millennium before the iPod!