Tibetan Freedom Concert

Last updated
Tibetan Freedom Concert
Genre Alternative rock, rap, punk rock
DatesApril, May, June, July, August, September
Location(s) San Francisco (1996), New York City (1997), Washington D.C. (1998), Amsterdam, (East Troy) Wisconsin, Sydney, Tokyo (1999), Tokyo (2001), Taipei (2003) Vienna and Geneva (2012).
Years active1996–1999; 2001; 2003; 2012

Tibetan Freedom Concert is the name given to a series of socio-political music festivals held in North America, Europe and Asia from 1996 onwards to support the cause of Tibetan independence. The concerts were originally organized by the Beastie Boys and the Milarepa Fund. The idea for a Live Aid-style concert for Tibet was conceived by members of the group during the 1994 Lollapalooza Tour.


Organized in 1996, the first concert was held in June in San Francisco and featured acts such as The Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Björk, Smashing Pumpkins, Cibo Matto, Rage Against the Machine, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. It drew 100,000 people and raised over $800,000 for Tibetan and social justice causes. [1] Additional concerts were held until 2003, generating public awareness about the Tibetan independence movement, particularly amongst young people. The concerts helped spur the growth of Students for a Free Tibet worldwide.

Milarepa Fund

The Milarepa Fund was initially created to disburse royalties to Tibetan monks sampled on the Beastie Boys 1994 album Ill Communication . The Milarepa Fund's co-founders were Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys and social activist Erin Potts, then in her early twenties, whom Yauch had met on a trip to Nepal. [2]

Tibetan Freedom Concerts at a Glance

San Francisco

Polo Fields, Golden Gate Park
June 15–16, 1996
$800,000 raised
100,000 Attendees [1]

The Smashing Pumpkins, Chaksam-pa, Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, Pavement, Cibo Matto, Biz Markie, Richie Havens, John Lee Hooker, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, Sonic Youth, Beck, Foo Fighters, [3] Björk, De La Soul, Fugees, Buddy Guy, The Skatalites, and Yoko Ono/Ima. [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]

Speakers: Chimi Thonden – Tibetan Activist, Palden Gyatso – Former Political Prisoner, Shen Tong – Chinese Democracy Activist, Robert A.F. Thurman – Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies, Columbia University

Erin Potts [15] and The Milarepa Fund commissioned artist Jim Evans (T.A.Z.) to do a series of limited edition serigraphs for the San Francisco, New York City, and Washington D.C. events. [16]

Free Tibet, a documentary and concert film by Sarah Pirozek, with Erin Potts and Adam Yauch, was released on 11 September 1998. [17]

New York City

Downing Stadium, Randall's Island
June 7–8, 1997
$250,000 raised
Over 50,000 Attendees

Noel Gallagher, Foo Fighters, U2, Sonic Youth, Biz Markie, Alanis Morissette, Patti Smith, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Radiohead, Yungchen Lhamo, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, A Tribe Called Quest, Beastie Boys, Rancid, Björk, Pavement, Blur, Michael Stipe & Mike Mills, Taj Mahal and Phantom Blues Band, De La Soul, Dadon, Chaksam-pa, Nawang Khechog, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Eddie Vedder & Mike McCready, KRS-One, Porno for Pyros, and Lee Perry featuring Mad Professor & the Robotiks Band

Speakers: Palden Gyatso – Former Political Prisoner, Dechen Wangdu – Tibetan Activist, Chuck D – Public Enemy, Xiao Qiang – Human Rights in China, Nane Alehandrez – Barrios Unidos

Tibetan Freedom Concert , a compilation album covering events of that concert, was released on November 4, 1997.

Washington D.C.

RFK Stadium
June 13–14, 1998
$1.2 Million raised
Over 120,000 Attendees

Beastie Boys, Radiohead, Sean Lennon, Mutabaruka, Money Mark, A Tribe Called Quest, Dave Matthews Band, Sonic Youth, Nawang Khechog, Wyclef Jean, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, Buffalo Daughter, R.E.M., KRS-One, The Wallflowers, Blues Traveler, Live, Pearl Jam, Luscious Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chaksam-pa, Pulp, Bran Van 3000. Many bands, including Kraftwerk and Beck, were cancelled after lightning strikes at the beginning of Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters' set on the first day of music.

Speakers: Xiao Qiang – Human Rights in China, Lhadon Tethong – Students for a Free Tibet, Palden Gyatso – Former Political Prisoner, Wei Jingsheng – Chinese Democracy Activist and Former Political Prisoner

Free Tibet '99

Amsterdam, East Troy/Wisconsin, Sydney, Tokyo

June 13, 1999
Over 55,000 Attendees
$50,000 raised

Run DMC, The Cult, Beastie Boys, Blondie, Tracy Chapman, The Roots, Live, Eddie Vedder, Otis Rush, Cibo Matto, Handsome Boy Modeling School, Rage Against the Machine, Chaksam-pa

Speakers: Xiao Qiang of Human Rights in China, Lhadon Tethong of Students for a Free Tibet, Nawang Pema- Tibetan Nun

Rai Parkhal, Amsterdam

Garbage, Blur, Urban Dance Squad, Alanis Morissette, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, Luscious Jackson, NRA, Gang Chenpa, Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros, Thom Yorke & Jonny Greenwood

Speakers: Erin Potts – The Milarepa Fund, Ama Adhe – Former Political Prisoner.

Buffalo Daughter, Audio Active, Kan Takagi, Scha Dara Parr, Kiyoshirou Imawano, Nawang Khechog

Speakers: Alma David – Students for a Free Tibet, Jurme Wangda – Liaison Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Regurgitator, Spiderbait, The Mavis's, The Avalanches, Neil Finn, The Living End, Celibate Rifles, Not From There, Gerling, Jebediah, You Am I, Garpa, Blackalicious, Eskimo Joe, Trans Am

Speakers: Lobsang Lungtok – Former Political Prisoner, Jo Shaw – Students for a Free Tibet, Australia, Dorji DolmaAustralia Tibet Council


May 13, 2001
Tokyo Bay NK Hall
Over 6,000 Attendees

Thee Michelle Gun Elephant, UA, Chaksam-pa, Boom Boom Satellites, Buffalo Daughter

Speakers: Palden Gyatso – Former Political Prisoner, Zatul Rinpoche – Liaison Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Adam Yauch – Beastie Boys, Tomoko Tahara – The Milarepa Fund


April 20, 2003
Stadium of Songshan Tobacco Factory
Over 8,000 Attendees

Beastie Boys, LMF, Tizzy Bac, Nawang Khechog, Bobby Chen

Speakers: Tsegyam Ngaba – Taipei Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Adam Yauch – Beastie Boys, Hsiao Bi-khim – Taiwan Tibet Exchange Foundation, Freddy Lim – Chthonic


2012-05-26, on Vienna's infamous Heldenplatz.

Speakers: The 14th Dalai Lama, Tibetan exile prime minister Lobsang Sangay, Francesca von Habsburg, several Austrian politicians, and others.

As the final event of the 14th Dalai Lama's latest visit to Austria, the "Free Tibet" movement had organized a stage demonstration in his presence, with another free concert. Performers were, amongst others, Harri Stojka and Loten Namling as well as several youngsters, including rappers.

Audience was ~10,000.


2012-07-08, on Place des Nations, in front of UN headquarters.

Initiated by Tibetan artist's Loten Namlings march Journey for Freedom, from Swiss capital Bern to Geneva, in order to attract public attention to the Tibetans situation in today's China, the concert was supported and performed by him and some 15 more musicians, especially by Swiss musician Franz Treichler and his band The Young Gods.

Audience, unfortunately for the performers, were but several hundred people.

Washington D.C. lightning strike

As Herbie Hancock took the stage during the Washington, D.C. Concert at about 3:00 PM (June 1998), a storm system formed over the open-air RFK Stadium. While Hancock played, lightning struck fan Lysa Selfon. She was resuscitated on-scene and taken to the trauma unit of a local hospital, and was transferred the next day to D.C. General Hospital. Twelve people were injured; four critically. Selfon suffered the worst injuries and was visited in the hospital by a number of performers. Her burns were worst on her chest, where her underwire bra attracted the electricity and probably caused cardiac arrest. [18]

R.E.M., Radiohead and Red Hot Chili Peppers (originally scheduled for the first day's concert) returned to perform the following day. [19]

See also

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