Chondhen was born in Sakya, Tibet, in March 1959, when China was completely taking over the country. His parents brought him to India that same year. In 1969 he was enrolled in Central School for Tibetans (CST) in Mussoorie. From 1979, he taught traditional Tibetan Dance and Music in Rajpur, near Dehra Dun, although he was an amateur artiste then. He taught at the school for seven years.
In 1985, wanting to be a professional musician, Chondhen joined the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) in McLeod Ganj, completing a three-year diploma course in traditional Tibetan dance, music and Lhamo (play and opera). He was then assigned to teach dance and music in CST Tenzin Gang in Bombila, where he taught for 9 years. Bomdila is a small Tibetan settlement bordering Tibet in the northeastern India.
While in Bomdila, Chondhen was invited to perform Dekar (Tibetan Jester) at Inter Design Fukoura in Japan. Soon after the Japan tour Chondhen had an accident, which forced him to cease teaching for a few years. But he continued to learn and research Dekar for a long time, under the guidance of Opera Master Norbu Tsering of TIPA.
Dekar is always present at auspicious occasions and it is believed that their presence brings good fortune. The concept of Dekar existed in Tibet for centuries, but its first origins are unclear. The fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682) is said to have been the first to formally patronise the Dekar.
Dekar appeared only on significant occasions, such as Losar, the Tibetan New Year, weddings and occasions when new officials were appointed to the government. Dekar's verses include both devotional praises and humorous entertainment. These provided amusement, and also inspired faith in the Buddhist religion. The costumes of Dekar were specific to their trade. They consisted of black and white masks ringed with goat's hair, decorated with shells, and a mirror on the forehead.
Dekar is a fast vanishing performing art. Chondhen is specialised in Dekar performance, having done a great deal of research in the art. He has to his credit Voice of Tsewang Chondhen, an audio cassette of verses or narration of Dekar that he produced in 2000.
He has performed at various venues on different occasions in India, as well as in a few European countries and in the US.
He is currently living in McLeod Ganj, tutoring in Tibetan dance, music, and opera for Tibetan students and also for other enthusiasts from around the world. He is preparing to produce a classical Tibetan music album in 2006, and is also working on an easy-to-use book of Tibetan music notation.
Starting in July 2016, he is teaching dra-nyen (Tibetan lute) at Saraswati Music School in McLeod Ganj
Chondhen is available for concerts.
email: [email protected]