I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MY HEAD. It’s like short-term memory loss,” says Tensin Jigme, a sheepish smile spreading across his face. “It’s here, in my head, but I am not able to remember it exactly. You are going to have a hard time talking to me.” I have just asked him what music he is into while Jimi Hendrix bellows from the café speakers in the background.
Jigme is a part of a local three-brother band called JJI Exile Brothers— their names in the order of age: Jamyang, 33 (bass and lead vocals), Jigme, 31 (lead guitar, vocals) and Ingsel, 30 (drums and vocals). The brothers are second-generation Tibetan refugees living in exile in McLeod Ganj, a suburb of Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, the headquarters of the Tibetan Government in Exile and the official residence of the 14th Dalai Lama. The town is home to several Buddhist monasteries and thousands of Tibetan refugees.
JJI’s music—rock and blues fused with the acoustic melodies of Tibetan instruments and Bob Marley-style protest lyrics—is giving voice to the un-Buddhist rage of this troubled generation. The continuing unrest in Tibet has immediate repercussions on the exiled community in McLeod Ganj.