Name: The Dalai Lama. Also known as Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso.
Age: He turned 85 on Monday.
Occupation: Buddhist spiritual leader; figurehead of the Tibetan government-in-exile, based in Dharamshala, northern India; pop sensation.
Pop sensation? That’s right. But let’s concentrate on his spiritual teaching and his political significance to the oppressed Tibetan people, shall we?
Don’t be ridiculous, this is Pass notes. Tell me about his music career. Very well. He has made an album called Inner World in which he recites Buddhist mantras in an attractive gravelly voice over a new-agey backing track of flutes and strings.
Any good? The critics have been a bit sniffy. The Times called it “an odourless gas of an album”, which “certainly makes a case for sticking to what you are best at, which, in the Dalai Lama’s case, is being a living god”. The Independent said there was “little to distinguish the shapeless instrumentation from any you’d find in a luxury spa”. The NME was more positive, describing it as “exactly the uncynical balm we all need right now”, and calling Compassion, one of the 11 tracks, a “certified banger”.
Is it a pop anthem dealing with the pain of lost love? No, in NME’s words, it’s “another ethereal instrumental over which the Dalai Lama chants the Sanskrit mantra Om mani padme hum, one of the most famous Buddhist prayers”.
Sounds like a corker. You may be dismissive, but I enjoyed it and found myself overcome by inner peace and deep feelings of fellowship towards small furry animals.
Where can I hear the album? Well, you could buy it – all proceeds go to charity. You can also hear parts of it on a YouTube video put out to celebrate his holiness’s 85th birthday, though be warned that you will also get effusive greetings from celebrity backers Richard Gere, Joanna Lumley and Russell Brand.
This must be a departure for a globally recognised spiritual leader. Not entirely. On his 80th birthday, the Dalai Lama made a hugely popular appearance (in a non-singing capacity) at Glastonbury. And Pope Francis released a prog-rock album called Wake Up! in 2015.
You’re pulling my leg. God moves (and records) in mysterious ways.
Was the album the Dalai Lama’s idea? The inspiration came from a New Zealand-based couple, Junelle and Abraham Kunin, but the Dalai Lama is hoping the album will soothe its listeners. “Music has the potential to transcend our differences,” he said in a statement. “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.”
Most likely to say: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
Least likely to say: “Where are the groupies?”