Nepali Nun sings Buddhist hymns and chants.
- By Verus Ferreira
Want to experience melody from the heart of the Himalayas? Look no further. Ani Choying Drolma is an internationally reputed singer of Buddhist hymns and chants who has toured extensively in North America, Asia and Europe. She performed her first concert ever in Mumbai recently.
Ani joined Nagi Gompa, a Buddhist nunnery on Shivapuri Mountain on the northern slope of the Kathmandu valley when she was only 13, an age when most children have everything but spirituality on their minds. She recalls, “I ran away from home at the tender age of 13 to be spared from my father’s violent temper and cruelties.”
Ani’s education and spiritual training was supervised by the renowned meditation master, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. She was educated in Buddhist meditation, chants, rituals and ceremonies and quickly advanced to the position of the chanting master in the nunnery.
Ani believes that music was a healer to her suffering. Always inclined towards music she says softly “Music is the greatest healer of my life. In a short span of time post joining the nunnery, I was fortunate enough to become the chanting master at the nunnery. Around the time I was 19, I happened to meet the famous American guitarist Steve Tibbetts who was visiting the nunnery with his wife. He appreciated my voice and invited me to America as his guest. There we jointly performed at venues where Steve and his band used to perform and I connected with innumerable number of people. Since then I have visited all parts of the world giving solo performances across UK, Europe and Asia”.
Ani is fortunate to listen and also share stage space with many eminent musicians of the world. Even though she mainly sings Buddhist chants and songs in Nepali, she is also capable of singing Indian songs. “I have always got connected to my audience. I recently worked on a project with Mr. A R Rahman.” Although she uses languages which might seem unfamiliar to city audiences, she believes her music is universal. The mantras are in Sanskrit and the hymns are in the local language of Nepal and the Himalayan language. Her songs and original music has also appeared on various albums, including Head Massage by Soul Flip and the Buddha Bar compilation.
Ani resigned from the post of chanting master to become Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s personal health attendant and served him until his parinirvana (passing away) in February 1996. From seeing Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s altruistic life-style, always giving to others, without considering his own welfare, she developed a sincere desire to use whatever capacities she has to benefit beings as much as possible. According to her, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche himself held nuns in the same regard as monks, and so she believes that creating more opportunities for nuns to study and to develop their own capacities for skillful and compassionate action is the best way she can dedicate herself to her teacher’s vision throughout her life. She is committed to do whatever she can to promote the advancement of nuns, not only for their own benefit but because they will then be better prepared to serve and benefit others. It is no wonder then that she was conferred the award of Goodwill Ambassador for Nepal Tourism Year in 2011.
When not touring, Ani does meditation and social projects and manages the Nuns Welfare Foundation of Nepal institute in Nepal.
The purity of her voice has earned her fans and awards across the globe. All proceeds of her work go to educating and uplifting the life of destitute girls of Nepal. Her songs and original music has also appeared on various albums, including “Head Massage” by Soul Flip and the “Buddha Bar” compilation.
Ani performed in Mumbai in July this year at the prestigious St. Andrews Auditorium, Bandra West. At the concert, her hauntingly beautiful and spiritually uplifting voice left everyone speechless. The purity of her voice singing the Ganesha Mantra, the Gayatri Mantra, to a blend of ancient and modern Tibetan Buddhist chants and traditional songs from the Himalayas, was a moment not to be missed. Accompanied by two acoustic guitarists and a flautist, and later a guest appearance by our very own ace percussionist Sivamani, the power of her voice drew on a complex mix of devotion, confidence and raw emotion to present a rare musical treat, a new musical genre, pure and straight from the heart. Between each song Ani spoke about her life experiences, some contemplative and haunting. Her music was calming, inspiring and enlightening. Just like her persona.