Written by Lekey Leidecker
As the Machik team scoured the internet in Tibetan, English, and Chinese for information about ANU, who captivated Tibetan audiences inside and outside Tibet with their song འཕུར་ (En: Fly) in 2017, I kept wondering to myself: how can we get the world to care about Tibet and hip hop, or to even put the two in the same sentence?
In our process of outreach for each Khabda, we try to spread the word in a number of ways: through social media, through our networks, and are fortunate to have started receiving outreach from new folks who are interested in the featured topics.
This time, I remembered that our friend and collaborator, Deon Ben of Diné (Navajo) Nation, had shared something wonderful with me when we last met in November 2018, a convening of the Colorado Plateau Intertribal Conversations Gathering, held on the lands of the Isleta Pueblo and convened by the Grand Canyon Trust.
Deon, his parents, and additional Diné community members Sunny Dooley and Tony Skrelunas had just participated in Machik’s largest gathering, the 12th Annual Machik Weekend in New York City, and Deon’s parents, Violet and DJ, had heard a Tibetan song there that they’d enjoyed. I realized that the song was none other than ANU’s sensational crossover global hit འཕུར་ (En: Fly), meaning that the Ben family had joined a global cohort of ANU fans, and that the Gonpa’s beautifully worded sentiment of “extending your wings of freedom” had, unsurprisingly, reached Navajo Nation!
As I wrote the discussion guide for this Khabda, it was Violet and DJ who I had in mind: two Diné elders who actually share many traditions with the Nangchen community in Tibet where Gonpa and Payag are from: farming and ranching, deep relationships to place and homeland. How could I share more about ANU to people who, like our Diné friends, respond to ANU’s music but may not have the same knowledge about contemporary Tibet that I do?
So, why should you, or anyone else care about Tibet, hip hop, and ANU’s music? My answer is this: In a time of rapid change for Tibet and for the world, ANU illustrates the power of music to connect, uplift, and inspire. Like all good music, ANU makes the listener feel something powerful. The name ANU, also known as ཨ་ནུ་རིང་ལུགས་ (En: Anu Ranglug), is a Tibetan phrase in English loosely meaning “youthfulness.” It also evokes a spirit of energetic hopefulness, of joy, of “believ[ing] in the wonders of life.” We are blessed with ANU’s joyous and youthful spirit, and, as evidenced by their fan base, Anu Ranglug can happen at any age, anywhere.