The Making of Dreaming Lhasa


From the beginning, Ritu and Tenzing wanted to challenge the audience’s perceptions of what Tibet represented and in this regard, the choice of music became a crucial factor. They had a clear idea that the original score should be a mix of contemporary electronica and traditional Tibetan sounds.

Ritu and Tenzing had known Andy Spence, a London-based electronica artist and producer, for a number of years and although he had never scored a film before or had much exposure to traditional Tibetan music, they instinctively felt that he would bring the right combination of freshness and innovation to the soundtrack. They roped in another old friend, Techung, a Tibetan musician based in California, to collaborate with Andy. Techung sent Andy various Tibetan instrumental solos played on the piwang, dranyen, and yangchin. Incorporating these, Andy came up with some moving pieces of music that struck a fine balance between the traditional and the modern.

Karma’s character as a New York filmmaker, coupled with the fact that Dharamsala is a melting pot of young travellers from all over the world, gave the filmmakers the freedom to go for an intriguing mix of sourced music. This included a famous Bollywood song, the dub reggae sounds of The Skatalites and Augustus Clarke, dance music from Underworld and Organic Audio, and a track by the Cowboy Junkies.

Adding to this mix are two contemporary Tibetan rock songs, performed on-camera by the character, Jigme, who in real life is one third of the popular band, JJI Exile Brothers. The Brothers themselves make a guest appearance in the film.

Yet one more musical motif was woven into the film: a traditional nomadic air sung in a delicate soprano by Dharamsala-based singer, Kelsang Chukie Tethong, which acted as a counterpoint to the more contemporary bent of the soundtrack.