Tibetan monks bring sacred dance music to Luing

Colourful masks and robes of monkis from the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.

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Exiled Tibetan monks will be stopping off at Luing soon as part of a UK sell-out tour.

Glastonbury, the Edinburgh Fringe, Royal Opera House and the Imperial War Museum are just some of the big venues they have performed at over the years and they have even guest-starred on BBC Radio 4’s The Archers, but  on October 14 it will be the turn of the Atlantic Islands Centre where tickets are still available.

Tashi Lhunpo Monastery monks are on a sell-out UK tour – including Luing where tickets are still available.
See the monks from Tashi Lhunpo Monastery perform on Luing on October 14.

Thigh bone trumpets and cranium drums are just some of the instruments the audience can expect, as well as ancient chanting and remarkable robed and masked dancing. The Dung-Chen, long horns, instrument can normally be heard for several miles!

Those who make the journey across the Cuan Sound for the evening in Cullipool will be in for an unforgettable night, says Michael Whitewood who is helping promote the Power of Compassion tour.

Earlier in the evening, at 5.30pm, there will also be a workshop at Cullipool Village Hall – entry by donation.

Transport will be arranged for anyone booking tickets who is coming by ferry to Luing to get them to the centre in time for the performance. The passenger ferry will leave Cuan Sound at 7.30pm and return at 10pm.

‘When people think of monks they think of chanting but that’s just part of it. Their monastery is unique because they are well-known for their masked dances. They are very elaborate, made out of wood and papier mache and they wear colourful robes.

‘They will be performing ritual dances and using instruments from their tantric orchestra,’ said Michael.

Custom had it that when former lamas and Buddhist masters died their bodies would be left on mountain tops for vultures to pick their flesh – the monks would then collect the bones to make instruments with.

The monks’ rich overtones of chanting will include prayers for peace involving elaborate hand movements, asking for protection and blessings.

‘They have been touring for the past 20 years when they first came, they come to the UK about every 18 months and always get a warm reception.

‘They have played at the likes of Glastonbury and the Royal Opera House but they also try to reach out to smaller communities and more intimate spaces.

The UK tour is organised by a charity set up to support the monastery and there will be a narrator on the night to put all the prayers and dancing into context.

The Monk’s new album Calm Abiding has just received a glowing four-star review in Songlines magazine and it has also had a slot on BBC Radio 3’s Music Planet.

Founded by the first Dalai Lama in 1447 in Shigatse, Central Tibet, the monks’ Tashi Lhunpo Monastery was famous for its scholarship in Mahayana philosophy and the Tantric tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1959, the Chinese occupation of Tibet resulted in the destruction of many of the monastery’s precious scriptures, statues and paintings and during the 1960s, 20 of its elderly moks fled religious persecution and followed the 14th Dalai Lama into exile by trekking across the Himalayas.

In 1972 the Monastery was re-established in Bylakuppe, South India when the elderly Monks rebuilt their Monastery by hand, breaking rocks for building stones and mixing the cement by hand.

To book tickets, £8 for adults and £6 for children, call the Atlantic Islands Centre on 01852 314096.