On an evening in early September, in a modest-sized auditorium called “Nirvana Hall” in McLeod Ganj, Lobsang Wangyal stood at a podium before an audience of about forty people. Wearing a crisp white chupa—a traditional Tibetan top—he began by addressing the audience in Tibetan, then switched to English. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “welcome to the Tibetan Music Awards, 2017.”
The awards, which honour musicians of Tibetan origin, are held in McLeod Ganj every two years. Wangyal, the 47-year-old founder of the event, has produced eight editions of it, starting in 2003. Winners are decided based on online voting by the public—774 votes had been cast this year, Wangyal told the audience. The 2017 awards were co-sponsored by Laughing Buddha Music, a New York-based record company.
Dharamshala, of which McLeod Ganj is a suburb, has been the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile since 1960. One year earlier, the Dalai Lama had arrived in India, seeking asylum from the Chinese state. Many other Tibetans fled their homes around the same time, and much of the community has since lived in diaspora. In light of this history, Wangyal’s award ceremony does more than recognise musicians—it enables Tibetans to feel a sense of community that often eludes them.