I had a chance recently to talk with Shenpenn Khymsar, Tibetan activist, producer of the documentary “Journey Of A Dream” and guitarist in metal act Avatara. We talked a bit about his background in music and his intentions with the documentary. For those that don’t know about the film, here’s a brief snippet from the website, there is also a trailer for the film at the bottom of the interview…
“This revolutionary politically driven Rock-U-mentary is the first of its kind to put a spotlight on the hidden musical talents of his birth place Darjeeling that struggles to survive much less get noticed. Journey of a Dream takes a candid look into the lives of generations of Tibetan refugees in Darjeeling, Dharmsala, New York and Canada. Tibetans all over the world are politically, philosophically, and spiritually loyal to their history, culture which is what keeps the dream of a free Tibet alive for future generations. For Khymsar expressing his dedication and love for his occupied homeland Tibet through Heavy Metal, a musical form as complex and undeniably passionate as his own struggle, was a natural evolution.”
PM: You have a documentary coming out soon titled “Journey Of A Dream“, tell the readers a little bit about it.
Shenpenn: Journey of a Dream is a feature documentary that is a juxtapose of the Tibetan buddhism and Metal. It basically shows the Tibetan situation and how being born in exile was like. Its about finding your true self and not succumbing to the norms of society. Its gonna be the most unique Tibetan documentary and advocates metal to the core. See the film when it comes out to know more about it.
PM: Having grown up as a refugee in India, did your parents tell you many stories of what life was like in Tibet before they were forced to flee? Did/do you ever yearn to get back home to Tibet?
Shenpenn: Yes of course, my parents and grand parents always talked about their home and life in Tibet. My family lost everything to the Chinese invasion of Tibet. I definitely wanna go back to see where my ancestors came from and would love to live in both Canada and Tibet.
PM: In the trailer for the documentary, it is very obvious, as with the subtitle, you are an avid metal music fan and performer. Do you remember the first moment when you knew you had to be involved in the music itself?
Shenpenn: I knew that i had to become a musician when i first saw Def Leppard’s Pour some sugar on me when i was a kid back in Darjeeling, India.
PM: How long has your band Avatara been around? Tell us some about Avatara, the members, influences, etc?
Shenpenn: My band Avatara has been around for 6 years but used to be called “Shangrila” but then i had to change the name after i moved from Toronto to Vancouver. Avatara in sanskrit and Buddhism means re-incarnated so with a new line up and a faster, meaner, darker tone i changed it to “Avatara“.
Peter Sacco is vocals and guitars, loves metal like crazy and is super dedicated band mate. Dustin Hunter is the drummer and used to play with me 4 years ago too. He is an ardent fan of UFC and a hell of a drummer. Zac Olson is the bass and a very talented musician. He is actually a keyboard player but we talked him into playing the bass as we did not wanna look for a new bassist. Zac is a very old soul and is also the comic of the band.
Our influences are Maiden, L.O.G, Gojira, Arch Enemy, Decapitated, Opeth, Meshuggah and many eastern classical musicians.
PM: Lyric wise what you guys write about? Do they have anything to do with Tibetan activism and or Buddhism at all?
Shenpenn: Our lyrics are very socially and politically conscious. I do write about Tibet but also global issues so i keep it pretty generic and relative. There is always an underlined buddhist message in our songs but its just a little fast, dark and heavy. \m/…
PM: When should we expect the film to come out? Will it be showing at any of the film festivals?
Shenpenn: Journey of a Dream is expected to be out soon. We have submitted in all the big festivals and now we are just waiting to hear back from them.
PM: You also consider yourself and outspoken advocate and human rights, specifically in the Tibetan cause. In your lifetime, have you seen things change at all? What do you think needs to be done, that hasn’t already been done, to really make more people aware of the Tibetan plight?
Shenpenn: Yes I am a Tibetan activist and a human rights advocate. Things do have changed compared to the past mainly because of social media as we are all so closely connected to one another. I think people around the world sympathizes with the Tibetan cause but we don’t need sympathy. What we need is genuine concern and action from the free world. People need to be a little more aware of the Tibetan issue, it is about human rights and right to self determination. Tibet is the only country in the history of mankind that has not retaliated in any form of major violence and we have lost over 1.6 million lives due to the Chinese invasion. Tibet’s freedom is just and TIBET WILL BE FREE….