In 1998 Jamyang Yeshi, a talented singer and musician from the Amdo region of Tibet, fled his Chinese-occupied country and settled in Dharamsala, India. Over eight years in India he performed widely, and released several CDs, until his life took a different course in 2005. Jamyang was invited to Canada to perform at The Banff Centre’s “Cultures at Risk” Summit and was granted refugee status in Canada. This brought him closer to his brother, Tsundue, who had also escaped Tibet and made his home in the United States. However, both men’s freedom in exile kept them continents apart from the rest of their close-knit family in Tibet.
In early 2006, the Tara Café Project began work on the Shining Spirit recording and film project with a dream in mind ... the project would bring the family together through their music, using multi-tracking technology; as well, a short film would be made of the process. This project would be accomplished with the help of western friends who were able to travel freely to Tibet, a country now forbidden to Jamyang and Tsundue. In the summer of 2006, Mark Unrau and Karen McDiarmid travelled to the family’s home in Amdo, bringing with them a video camera, and music tracks recorded by Jamyang in Canada and stored on Mark’s laptop computer. They were joined by Gompo Kyab, a musician friend of Jamyang and Tsundue’s, who acted as music facilitator and translator for the project.
Over the course of three weeks, members of Jamyang’s musical family – father, two elder brothers, younger sister and nephew – and the extended family, were recorded. The recordings from Tibet were then carried back to Canada, and the family was reunited musically by mixing the tracks together in the studios of The Banff Centre. Jamyang and his father sing together, as do Jamyang and his younger sister, while the entire family joins in song for the first time in fifteen years in “Aku Pema.” And the family, having not heard Jamyang sing since he had left Tibet, were able to listen to his beautiful voice soaring from the laptop computer. This was an emotional time for everyone, including the project members. The Shining Spirit Project is a testament to the power of music, the resilience of the Tibetan culture, and the enduring bond of a family separated by politics and geography.