Dalai Lama turns 85, releases first album

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The Dalai Lama is marking his 85th birthday by releasing his first-ever album of mantras and Buddhist teachings.

The Tibetan spiritual leader, who was born on July 6, 1935, and is the 14th Dalai Lama, hopes “Inner World” will provide some peace amid the chaos of 2020.

“Music has the potential to transcend our differences,” he said in a statement. “It can return us to our true nature of warm-heartedness.”

He added: “The very purpose of my life is to serve as much as I can. Music can help people in a way that I can’t.”

“Inner World” was first conceived by New Zealand musician Junelle Kunin, who approached the Dalai Lama about releasing a collection of his mantras set to music in 2015.

The project, which features 11 tracks of ambient, soothing music, was recorded by Kunin and co-produced with her husband, Abraham Kunin, who composed the music.

“The entire purpose of this project is to try to help people. It’s not a Buddhist project, it’s to help everyday people like myself, even though I am Buddhist,” Junelle Kunin told The Associated Press in June. “The messages couldn’t be more poignant for our current social climate and needs as humanity.”

Net proceeds from the sales of the album will benefit Mind & Life Institute as well as Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning (SEE Learning), an international education program developed by Emory University and the Dalai Lama.

Grammy-nominated sitar player Anoushka Shankar makes a guest appearance on the album, playing on “Ama La,” a track honoring mothers. Shankar said being invited to perform on the album was “a huge honor.”

She first met The Dalai Lama as a child with her father, the legendary musician Ravi Shankar.

For the new album, she said, “What I was given was a beautiful template of (the Dalai Lama’s) voice speaking … it was very evocative with his speaking. It’s so clear what the mood is about … that it kind of flowed quite simply to just play over that and try to add a musical enhancement to the words he’s speaking.”

Dozens of other musicians were invited to help with the project. Kunin’s husband had multiple roles, from playing guitar and percussion to drum and synth programming. Kunin co-produced the album and added vocals to three songs, including “Purification.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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