Festival Showcases Himalayan Culture
Without benefit of a passport or overnight flight, the Himalayan Festival allows visitors to immerse themselves in the culture, food and music of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and India Saturday and Sunday, April 16 and 17, on the Festival of Arts grounds in Laguna Canyon. The entry fee is $5; admission for children and seniors is free.
The festival opens at 10 a.m. on Saturday with a blessing from Laguna Beach Pastor BJ Beau, a Hindu chant sung by the local group Enchanters, and the Tibetan national anthem performed by Pelkyi Dorjee on piano accompanied by a chorus of Tibetan youth. Also on tap, Tibetan dance, song and tattoo demonstrations.
Vendors will offer Himalayan yak wool throws, rugs, jewelry, figurines, hand-carved masks and religious artifacts plus food from all four cultures including Tibetan momos (dumplings), curries and spicy noodles.
Saturday rounds out with Bollywood meeting hip hop in a dance fusion performance and classical Hindustani music featuring a duet of solo musicians called jugalbandi, which literally means entwined twins.
Leaders of the Tibetan Association of Southern California conceived the Himalayan Festival as a “way to show our Western friends how we live,” said Namgyal Kyulo, a past president of the association. He and board member Tenpa Dorjee, who owns the Tibet Handicrafts shop in Laguna Beach, enlisted the help of Susan Brown-Madorsky and Pam Wicks from Neighborhood Congregational Church. “The festival is an outgrowth of NCC’s outreach programs,” said Brown-Madorsky.
Dorjee was born in a Tibetan refugee camp in Norgyeling, in central India, where his parents fled during the Chinese invasion of 1959. Orphaned at age 5, he was sponsored by a Belgian woman, who also paid for his education. He immigrated to the United States in 1998 and fulfilled his lifelong dream of opening a store a dozen years later.Kyulo and Dorjee, both Tibetan exiles, grew up in India although they did not know each other until after arriving in California. “There are only about 250 to 300 Tibetans in California; it’s likely everyone knows everyone else,” Kyulo added.
The festivities continue on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. when Tibetan Buddhist scholar and meditator Lama Zopa Rinpoche opens the festival with blessings and representatives from the Bhutanese community share cultural traditions and perform live. Throughout the day Nepali and Sherpa song and dance performances take place and a former Sherpa will talk about his ascent of Mt. Everest.
The organizers are hopeful that the event will build inter-cultural connections and social harmony between the Himalayan diaspora communities and Southern California. “The first festival held in 2014 drew about 1,500 visitors and we’d like to get 2,000 or more this year,” said Kyulo, who admits that they’re hoping to break even.
If lucky enough to make a profit, Kyulo says they may keep some seed money for next year’s event and consider making a donation to earthquake victims in Nepal.