Interview | FFS 5 with GaRangDengZhen

Photo courtesy of artist

Ansa GaRangDengZhen—or Zen—is a multi-award winning pioneer of contemporary Tibetan folk music. His accomplishments have brought him around the world—most recently to Canada, where he will be performing at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre on 13 August. His powerful world music speaks to the wintry steppes that he calls home, mixing undulating, synth-driven riffs with traditional Tibetan vocal melodies to produce something new. His new single, ‘Alaye’, is indicative of this, and serves as a theme song to recent accolades like his becoming the ambassador for the Canadian Liver Fund, the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation, and the Tibet Aid and Development Foundation. Zen is working to positively effect lives through his empowering music.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

Hello, My name is Zen GaRangdengZhen. I am a Tibetan musician from the Tibetan plateau of China.

I liked music since childhood, growing up in the environment of music. People have a saying “Tibetans can sing if they can talk, and dance if they can walk.” The natural environment and cultural atmosphere there gave me the natural conditions to engage in music.

When I was in middle school, I took part in a campus singing contest by chance and won the championship, and discover my talent for singing. From then on, I decided I wanted to create music.

The decisive moment was when I won the first prize in the China Original Singing Contest after graduating from university and the top 10 in the National Talent Contest. These two important moments gave me enough confidence and encouragement to keep moving forward in my music career and keep creating musical works.

As an artist, how do you define success?

As an artist, I think success is the value that his works can have on society, bring hope to people and have a positive influence on society.

What do you find your greatest struggle to be when it comes to the music business?

For me, my music is a niche music at present, and the biggest difficulty is the cultural background I live in. Many people do not know and are unfamiliar with the musical elements I use. My music team needs to promote and introduce more through various channels to make people aware of it and turn it from unknown to known. This process is the biggest challenge.

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist and as a band? What do you hope to achieve?

I think the most realistic goal I can achieve is to create more good works for everyone every year.

The ultimate goal I hope to achieve is to spread my music around the world, and given the chance, I hope my music can be sung for decades, hundreds of years, or even longer.

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

I like to meditate, read extensively, travel around the world, visit local museums and historical sites, and think about how these cultural notes fit into my music, all of which help me in my music creation process.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm