May 22, 2013
Techung and his band Lhasa Spirits with Africa Brass at the Old U.S. Mint, May 18th, 2013

In honor of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s first visit to New Orleans, Tibetan singer/songwriter Techung and his band Lhasa Spirits, who travel the world playing for His Holiness, performed at the Old U.S. Mint with local jazz ensemble Africa Brass on Saturday evening. May 18,2013.

After a sold-out daytime performance that preceded the Dalai Lama’s speech “Resilience: Strength through Compassion and Community” at the UNO Lakefront Arena, Lhasa Spirits was welcomed into the more intimate concert room at the Old US Mint.

Beneath the backdrop of the blue, white, red, green and yellow Tibetan prayer flags--which in the weeks leading up to His Holiness’ visit had become a familiar sight around the city, Techung laughingly said that, in this setting, he and his band could play their “silly songs” as opposed to the more laudatory songs that many in the audience had the privilege of hearing the quartet perform for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The eight songs that Lhasa Spirits played this evening at the Mint ranged in theme from falling in love, as in “With You and “Tso Mo,” to a critique of capitalism in “Jangu Dollar Bill.” Techung joked with the non-Tibetan speaking audience that he could sing whatever lyrics he wanted since no one would understand. Throughout their performance, all the members of the band interacted freely with the enthused, talkative audience. The combination of the band’s stage chemistry, their openness towards the audience, each member’s delight in playing Techung’s music and the beauty of said music made for a very enjoyable show and a very happy audience.

Techung, who has lived in exile from Tibet since he was nine-years old, now resides in the San Francisco Bay-area, but regardless of his distance from his homeland and his multilingualism, the folk and freedom musician says that he will continue to sing primarily in Tibetan because of the threat that the language and culture face. This commitment did not, however, keep him from joining Africa Brass in a transitional song between the two bands’ sets that combined Techung’s traditional Tibetan music with the African drumming and New Orleans brass that characterizes Africa Brass. The impromptu, six-minute live jam session sounded well-rehearsed and the two bands blended well together.

The seven piece jazz ensemble Africa Brass then took the stage joined by special guest pianist/vocalist, composer, band leader Matt Lemmler, and banjo player/drummer Hunter Burgamy.

Dancer Kai Knight whirled in front of the stage--performing the “dance of seduction” as vocalist Troi Bechet powerfully sang this Guinean courting song entitled Yankadi.

Knight entranced the audience as she danced throughout the six-song set highlighting the rhythms tapped out by bandleader and dundun player Jeff Klein and djembe player Judah Mason.

The cross-continental musical exchange literally moved the audience. During “Congo Square,” the last song Africa Brass played, an ethnically diverse group of dancing audience members formed a soul train line in front of the stage headed by Knight.

Klein says that Africa Brass will be playing a series of shows with Matt Lemmler's New Orleans Jazz Revival Band at the Mint beginning in early July. With their moving rhythms, enlivening melodies, and consistently mind-blowing vocals, this culturally driven ensemble is not to be missed.

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