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Gyuto Monks Tantric Choir
The Perfect Jewel (Rykodisc)
• The Gyuto Monks Tantric Choir

Awesome mastery. Mood and mind altering, and beyond.

When I was living and playing in Heidelberg a few years ago, I used to go down to the Hauptstrasse on a Saturday or Sunday morning in the hopes of seeing some of the Mongolian throat singers, or so they were called there at the time. Three or four monkish characters with instruments I didn't recognize, and who would sing two notes simultaneously, one usually very low, like subsonic. I would sit down right in front of them a couple of feet away and marvel at the things I was hearing. It was easy after a while to forget where and when one was.

Years later, I'm having a similar experience in my office in Nashville. I'd heard through the years that the Dead's Mickey Hart (also Richard Gere, for that matter) was associated with a touring group of these singers called The Gyuto Monks, and that they were Tibetan monks. It is a profound listening experience, and sheds light on a corner of human expression of which everyone should be aware. (Profits from this recording benefit the Society for Gyuto Sacred Arts and help support the Gyuto Tantric University.)

Huston Smith first exposed the world at large to recordings of this kind of sacred singing from Tibet, and Mickey Hart became aware of it in 1969. It is largely through Hart's subsequent efforts, apparently, that those recordings and ones that have been generated by three generations of singers henceforth have proliferated throughout the world.

Sampling a few clips on the Listen page will show you what this is about immediately. Like myself, I'm sure many of our readers will be gripped by the chanting and want to add this unique disc to their collections, for many possible reasons. Not the least of these is prayer and meditation. From the liner notes: "It is important to remember that these chants are not intended as entertainment, but as prayer. Further, the selections presented are only small parts of rituals that may take many hours or days to perform in full."

We owe a debt to Huston Smith and to people like Mickey Hart and Richard Gere, and naturally to the community of Tibetan monks, for sharing these sacred sounds with a fast moving and troubled world. • FG

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For more information on the Gyuto Monks, visit