Review of 03/09/98 Tibet-House concert, Carnegie Hall, New York City

Ginsberg Honored at Tibet Benefit


NEW YORK (AP) - A deep sense of loss for Beat poet Allen Ginsberg was acknowledged onstage at Carnegie Hall recently at the sixth annual Tibet House New York benefit concert.

"We continue to be inspired by Allen," said Buddhist scholar-activist Robert Thurman, who is actress Uma Thurman's father. Ginsberg, an American Buddhist and mainstay of Tibet House events, died soon after last year's celebration.

Tibet House is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Tibet's cultural heritage. The benefit's honorary committee included Ms. Thurman, Ethan Hawke, Melissa Mathison and designer Mary McFadden, who were all seated in the audience.

The March 9 concert marked the celebration of the Monlam Prayer Festival, named for a centuries-old Tibetan New Year celebration. Chanting by eight monks from the Drepung Loseling monastery, based in India where the Dalai Lama is in exile, was followed by punk poet Patti Smith.

Her "Letter to Allen" opened with a joke, then led into memories of sitting with Ginsberg as he died. "It was a peaceful passing ... off he went," she said. "It's the first year not having Allen with us physically, but I'm sure he's amongst us."

She read his poem, "Footnote to Howl," as four monks chanted and composer Philip Glass played the piano.

Culturally and artistically, it was a mixed lineup: Smith, Glass, Sheryl Crow, Natalie Merchant, Velvet Underground founder John Cale, West African singer Angelique Kidjo, Ed Kowalczyk of the rock group Live and Brazilian superstar Caetano Veloso. All are drawn to Buddhism and/or to Tibet's resistance to assimilation by the Chinese, who have occupied the country since 1959.

The gathering, which encouraged collaborations, included Cale on guitar, Jerry Harrison of the Talking Heads on keyboard, Ernie Brooks and Live, all playing "Pablo Picasso," a song by singer/guitarist Jonathan Richman. The song was originally recorded in the early 1970s by the Modern Lovers, with Harrison and Brooks, and produced by Cale.

Kowalczyk, who mentioned his Buddhist teacher, performed "Overcome," with Merchant, Crow and Kidjo singing backup.

Yungchen Lhamo, a Tibetan-born singer, dedicated her performance to the Dalai Lama. "He is the sun. Without him, there is no light," she said.

Smith ended the evening by leading the performers in her song, "People Have The Power."

The Monlam Prayer Festival has not been held in Lhasa since 1988, when the festival was canceled by the Chinese government. The purpose of the festival, benefit organizers said, is to pray for world peace and prosperity.

AP-NY-03-11-98 1412EST

Copyright © The Associated Press 1998

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