News :: 2019

Tawo Lobsang Palden -- pioneer of Tibetan pop music -- dies

Tawo Lobsang Palden in an undated file photo.

Tawo Lobsang Palden in an undated file photo. Photographer unknown

Tawo Lobsang Palden, a pioneer of Tibetan pop music, passed away apparently of natural causes, in Germany on Monday. He was 68.

A medical doctor by profession, Palden was also passionate about composing songs and music. His first musical album Trinkhor was released in 1985, enthralling Tibetans around the world. Since then he added three more albums to make the “Trinkhor” series. Trinkhor IV was released in 2009.

Palden was on the Board of Directors of the Tadra Project, an organisation providing education to orphans in Kham and Amdo, Tibet. The project was started in 1995.

He had a short stint in politics as well after he announced his candidacy for the post of Kalon Tripa (Prime Minister of Tibetans-in-exile) in the 2011 elections. But he withdrew soon after due to a sudden illness that required hospitalisation.

Tawo Lobsang Palden was born in 1951, in Kham, Tibet. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet, he fled to India with his parents. He attended the St Augustin school in Kalimpong for two years and then joined the Tibetan Refugee School in Shimla. In 1963, at the age of 12 he left for Germany along with some other Tibetan children.

In Germany, after completing his college education, he studied medicine at the University of Heidelberg, earning a degree to become a medical doctor in 1979. Since then he worked as a medical doctor in internal medicine in different hospitals. Since 1983 he worked in the state hospital in Lüdenscheid, which is affiliated with the University of Bonn, as a senior doctor.

He has been married to Choeni Lhamo since 1973, with three children.

Nomadic singing influenced Lobsang Palden as a child. He learned his first songs from his parents, who both were from Tawo in Kham province in eastern Tibet. While in school in Germany he learned classic violin for six years, some guitar, and also the Tibetan dramnyen and flute. But his real passion was song-writing and singing. He was known to have written more than 40 songs, and some of them are played even today.

"Yeshi Norbu" in Trinkhor I, in praise of the 14th Dalai Lama, has a pop rendition in both Tibetan and English versions. He wrote a few more pop songs, and others were traditionnal Tibetan songs played along with Nelung Tsering Topden. The album also had Namgyal Gonpo Ronge aka Nami telling jokes in between the songs. Nami passed away in 2007.

"Phomo-Dranyam" [equality between men and women] in Trinkhor III, sung by his daughter Yulha Palden, was released in 2006 and was a major hit. The song was used in many events particularly related to women empowerment.

A love song "You and Me" was also an instant hit in that album.

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