High Peaks Pure Earth is saddened by the news of the passing of Dubey on February 27 at 10:30pm in a hospital in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China.
Dubey, from Amdo province, was a prominent, respected and much loved singer and songwriter, he was affectionately known as the ‘Cuckoo of the Snowland’ – Gangjong Khuchuk.
Dubey rose to fame in the 1980s through his albums and he also composed many classic contemporary Tibetan songs such as “The Sound of Unity” by Sherten and “Land of Snows” by Dekyi Tsering. Dubey would sing in a traditional Amdo style (dunglen) and famously introduced the mandolin to Tibetan music.
News of his passing has circulated quickly amongst Tibetan netizens on social media such as Weibo and WeChat. Ever since going into hospital for medical treatment, Tibetan writers such as Theurang and Kyabchen Dedrol had written tributes to Dubey and posted them online. Below are two poems from earlier this month and also a prose piece by Dungkar Yonten Gyatso.
Thank you to Bhuchung D. Sonam for sourcing the materials and for the timely translations.
Wind drifting above the clouds
Sniffs the fragrance floating on mountains peaks,
Footprints appearing on the banks of a river
Dances like nodding stalks of flowers,
Wings of vultures paint the dawn on the horizon
Sound of wisdom shakes the evening’s river,
Snowstorms of the night over the black tents
Tongues of flame carry away petals of pangyen metok*
Teardrops of a doe fall on the meadows
Howls of mastiffs scatter amidst the windstorms
Patterns on the snow woven from hairs of wild yaks
Melodies from the sun and the moon descend
Showering in the fragrance of milk and fur,
Voice steeped in the aroma of butter and dried cheese,
Lyrics plaited with rays of the sun and colours of rainbows
Floating on the water pail of the mother earth
Throbbing on the stirrups of the wisdom horse
Dusk, darkness, distance and a million other things
Grief, hope, aspiration and a million other feelings
falling, falling, flowing, falling, falling,
February 4, 2016
* Translator’s Note: Pangyen Metok, literally meaning ‘ornament of meadow’, is a bright blue flower that generally grows abundantly on meadows of the Tibetan Plateau.
By Kyabchen Dedrol
Lightning strikes from the tract of the meadows
Puddle of water in the imprint left by hooves of deer
Rainbow appears in the folds of fog
A nameless colour multiplies over many times
Dewdrops form in the braids of a beautiful nomad girl,
On the peak of a distance snow mountain
The moon glows and stars sparkle bright,
The roar of a whip invokes the darkness
To erase the last rays of the evening,
Warriors’ armours gather in the smoke of incense
Arrows of milk shoot across the stamen of pine trees –
That was when the melodies of Dubey’s songs
Lit up the dark black tents
Intensifying the heaviness of missing those in exile
Intensifying too the joy that carries life ahead.
February 3, 2016
“Half the Music is Gone Without Him”
By Dungkar Yonten Gyatso
Dubey and I
Dubey, widely known as the cuckoo of the Tibetan Plateau for his music, was my favourite musician. I grew up listening to his songs such as “A Sad Song of Wild Animals” and “A Song for the Panchen Lama” made me cry with emotion. These songs sowed a seed that grew into a tree of patriotism and hope. His songs, with their melody and great lyrics, are laden with the smell of tsampa or the barley flour – the staple Tibetan food – and fragrance of milk. He has offered countless songs as gifts for the Tibetan people. His music is a bridge of admiration and warmth between Dubey and I.
Special Characteristics of Dubey’s Music
The moment one hears his music one could visualize his features and expressions. One could listen to his songs again and again without getting tired or bored, and his songs reflect Tibetan way of life and culture. Since the 1980’s, Dubey composed and performed countless songs covering a vast array of subjects such as education, spiritual, patriotism, love, nature, environment and folklores. The fact that he engaged in creative arts for all these years to offer thousand of songs to the people of Tibet is an incomparable achievement in his life.
His message through his music to those who cannot read or write is also beyond comparison.
He had influenced and nurtured a new generation of singers and musicians, who are now composing and singing like Dubey. Many artistes have covered his songs and hence we can certainly call him the father of Tibetan music. Without him, half the music is gone.
Tibetan People’s Affection for Dubey
When Dubey fell ill at the end of last year, hundreds of Tibetans, both old and young, became anxious and took great interest in his condition. This clearly showed that he was a true creative artist who inspired people with his music. He had neither wealth nor official position to popularise himself. It was the power of his music and truth that won people’s hearts. When he was in the hospital, people ranging from high lamas to street beggars voluntarily contributed to his treatment. One doubts if a high lama, who supposedly works for others benefits, would gain such respect and solidarity. The fact that people had such affection and admiration for Dubey is a sign that people have such deep hearts.
Dubey and A Few Jealous People
It is clear from rumours created about Dubey’s illness that there are a few people who are jealous of him and creative skills. These gossips include a rumour that Dubey had drunk himself to death or that he needed more funds for treatment. Even if he did need money for further treatment, what was there to be ashamed of? Everything is impermanent in this world and so is a human body. It is laughable that he was accused of drinking too much when Lamas are climbing down from their high thrones to disrobe, to engage in mundane activities and to discriminate between friends and foes. What can one say to an ordinary person? When a Lama marries and drinks, we say he is performing miracles. When one thinks about these, one can also say that Dubey was also performing miracles when he was drinking. Who are we to say that someone has gone beyond his limit? We should not fool ourselves.
I offer this song for Dubey:
Cuckoo, Oh cuckoo,
Do not depart from the mother-like Tibetan Plateau
Fly, fly with brothers and sisters and play along
Cuckoo, Oh cuckoo
Do not rest in the throat of the goddess of music
Sing, let’s sing together songs of hope and prayer
Cuckoo, cuckoo, Oh Dubey,
In the realm of music, let us dance together
Let’s dance, shake our bodies and sing from the depth of our hearts,