Saskatchewan death metal artist sings Buddha in Taiwan

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A Saskatchewan death metal artist sings Buddha to Taiwan

Joe Henley , the guitarist of Dharma and Miao Ben.

The sounds of the gong and the triangle resonate in the small performance hall. The members of the group are all dressed in black, their faces covered in blood.

Then the drummer comes alive and the strident guitar takes over: place for the aggressiveness of death metal music.

This is the experience offered by Dharma, a Taiwanese group led by Joe Henley, a singer originally from Saskatchewan. A sound that combines the fury of rock with the songs and traditional instruments of Buddhist temples.

Despite the violence inherent in music, he says, our message is one of peace and healing.

Joe Henley arrived in Taiwan on a whim nearly 20 years old. He was then finishing his studies in journalism in Halifax and did not know what awaited him. A friend told her to go visit Taiwan.

“It's been my philosophy ever since. I say yes to what would have scared me before.

—Joe Henley

Buddhist sutras, traditional scriptures, form the basis of each of the Dharma songs. They are projected on a screen to the left of the stage during the show.

A woman dressed in a traditional long brown dress takes her place on stage, next to the guitarist who is spinning her long hair playing her long solo.

Miao Ben, a true Buddhist sister and metal fan, provides the ceremonial side on stage. She is the one who leads the traditional songs.

“The more chaotic the world is like now, the more we need to spread our unique message of compassion. It's an innovative way to do it.

— Mia Ben

Mia Ben continues to give her Buddhist lessons at the temple. Only, the day after the shows that start late at night, she allows herself to postpone the start of her day of prayers for a few hours.

If the members of the group formed four years ago are followers of Buddhism, this is not the case for all their fans, even if the concert takes on the appearance of a ceremony at the local temple at times .

Dharma does not seek to convert them, assures Joe Henley, but rather to help them find their own path to well-being.

The group Dharma meditates on stage.

For the Canadian singer, the Dharma's musical adventure represents the path to sanity. The idea of ​​forming the group was proposed to him when he was in deep depression, plagued by suicidal thoughts.

It got to the point where I was lying on my kitchen floor, he confides in a quivering voice. I was saying to a helpline, “I think I've had enough, I think I'm good to go.” Luckily, I had a guardian angel on the phone.

Cliché as it may sound, Joe Henley treats every day as a gift. He remains close to his family, whom he has not been able to see for three years due to the pandemic. He will return to Canada in December for the first time since 2020.

Today, Joe Henley also relishes every gig with his band. The transformation of karma is at the heart of Buddhism. This is the wish that the group Dharma makes for its admirers.

Philippe Leblanc is a Radio-Canada correspondent in Taiwan.

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