Gyuto Tibetan Monks Tantric Choir | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Gyuto Tibetan Monks Tantric Choir

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For over five centuries the Tantric Buddhist monks of Tibet have carried on a tradition of performing chants at sacred ceremonies. For the most part, the chants consist of low, guttural drones punctuated and embellished by chimes, handbells, or murmuring cymbals; one unusual aspect of the sound is created by the vocal technique, which allows the singer to produce three notes at once. In some sections, brass horns and drums (some made from human thighbones) are used to produce thunderous, apocalpytic sound crests before the music quiets down to a meditative calm. Three years ago, a choir of 21 monks from the Gyuto Tantric University--really a scholarly monastery--toured the U.S. introducing their unique musical ritual and drawing attention to the political oppression of Tibetans by the Chinese. Now, one CD and many converts later, the monks are back. It's not hard to see why minimalist composer Philip Glass and new-age guru and Japanese keyboardist Kitaro are crazy about the Tibetan chants: the music tends to be soothing, subtly nuanced, and glacial in pace; yet at times it can pack a wallop, as in the section where the monks exorcise demons from the world. Part of the proceeds from this concert will go toward the construction of a monastery at Dharmsala in Nepal, the site of the largest settlement of Tibetans in exile. Tonight at 8 PM; the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 472-0449 or 559-1212.

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