Colors of her Music: Ani Choying Dolma

Features Issue 43 Aug, 2010
Text by Ivan Sada / Photo: ECS Media

Her favorite fruit is mango and she does not shy away from eating two a day. Talk downbeat of Amitabh Bachan and she would roll her eyes and give you “that” look, humbly of course. She possesses three beautiful guitars but besides the damaru – a hand held percussion instrument and bells; which are traditional spiritual instruments, she cannot play them or any other instrument but wishes she could.

Ani Choying Dolma sings off key at times and she does not consider herself a professional singer, though she adores the accolades. She needs to remind herself time and again to synchronize with the musicians and instruments that are accompanying her because she has a habit of singing solo and the fact that she never sought any academic training for her singing career. Her honesty towards the mentioned fact makes one forgive the frailties of

her human side and we all hear the voice of her heart.

Performing abroad is always a wonderful experience to Ani and she has no reservations. The love and respect she receives is amazing, she recalls. She is appreciated, encouraged and supported not only for her singing but also for the social work she is engaged in. It augments the meaning of a positive existence in this world. Individuals come up to Ani after her concerts to show their gratitude of their unexplainable experience. Her performance calms their beings; though they do not understand a word she sings but somehow touches them. They experience the power, the energy or of “being in love” kind of expression through her presentation. A teenager into heavy metal music from Minnesota said it all “The music went over my head and the hair on my back stood up”. Never expecting much, he received something worth his dime. By the way, he bought all her CDs. Simple but wonderful feedback – “no bull – no wastage of time,” says Ani in her own words.

Last October at an awards ceremony in Germany, Ani was felicitated by the former German Ambassador to Nepal, Klaus Barth, for her unique personality and the lifestyle she follows and also for her effort to bring social changes with a modern approach. On stage, a certain amount of money was handed to her in an envelope and her first thought was of her Guru Tulku Ogyen Rinpoche. She wished for his presence, for him to see her at that point in her life. Tears flowed down her cheeks profusely. She knew that it was not the time to cry and that one must behave in front of the audience but her heart was helpless. Unconsciously using her shawl as a handkerchief, she wiped her tears and blew her nose while all along, the event was telecast on the giant screen behind her. Laughter followed the silence when she apologized, Tibetan style “Oh! Sorry”. It was an embarrassing moment yet an emotional one too. A bitter sweet memory she fondly recalls. She gives all the credit to her Guru and his blessings for whatever, whoever, wherever she is today. She is forever his disciple though she misses him greatly. She strongly believes the possibility because of her Guru’s blessings.

Ani connects with the audience, spiritually. She does not sing her songs like “just singing a song” but when she does, it forms a prayer from her inner beauty without fear. In a clear and positive state of mind, melodies flow from her heart. The generated positive energy and vibration touches the listeners of Ani. “My music has no particular color. It is like a rainbow which makes the whole thing beautiful. It is true to itself and has the color of truth” Ani gently explains.

With time and at a subtle level, Ani has learnt how to sing in rhythm and harmony with instruments through the mentoring of Nhyoo Bajracharya, Managing Director and Music Arranger of Do Re Mi Academy, though she says it is hard to understand his level of humor sometimes. The most sought after lyricist amongst composers, Durga Lal Shrestha, also has taught her how to carry words comfortably with the melody of songs, to give proper meaning to it. Their thoughts merge amicably and she always knows that the result is right. Though she is at a comfort zone with the two, she sincerely would like to work with other arrangers and lyricists and add more colors to her music.

Ani possessed her first cassette player when she was in her teens. It was an exciting time for her to play her choice of music, be it Hindi or Nepali, though she could not decide what English music to listen to. A Canadian studying with her teacher presented her with a tape of Bonnie Raitt, which she intensely listened to, over and over again until it was ruined. The same happened to another tape and she lost count there on. A few months back while she was about to perform at a concert in San Francisco, she saw a lady with red hair in the audience. Ani somehow felt she knew her but could not place her. After the concert the same lady walked up to her and said “Hello! I’m Bonnie Raitt and I’m one of your biggest fans”.  Bonnie held out her hand to shake Ani’s and when they did, she said that it was a dream come true to see Ani perform with eyes soaked in tears. Ani was speechless and explained that she on the other hand was her fan, which was a turn for Bonnie to be astonished. It was a karmic coincidence, a moment to be treasured.

Easy listening and songs that are beautifully put together poetically are the choices of Ani. Electronic and loud music is not to her liking but enjoys Peggy Lee, Elvis, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion. She adores Norah Jones and loves songs of Tracy Chapman. Music has been her refuge not at the true level of spirituality but for any other worldly occasion. It comforts and relaxes her and a state of peace is experienced. She rejoices at seeing the audience enjoy the bliss even for a moment that she imparts.

Gracing social functions takes its toll. She gets weary physically, but mentally she is happy to see her presence being appreciated and it is rewarding too, she says. It also is a source of blessing but she time and again needs to repose and recharge her energies. She does not fill her mind or waste her time with negative thoughts about her being taken advantage of and does not judge people through that motivation. She knows everyone wants to benefit from something or someone and is aware of the fact but does not bother about it. “I’m aware about people using me but I always see how much. Stones are thrown at the tree that yields the most delicious fruit. What if the tree stops to bear fruit? Then there is nothing special about the tree. The tree should not forget the nature of its own self. I’m true to myself, my quality and ability and I make a difference in the lives of others. I continue on that realization and bless others with my life” says Ani.