Bhutanese folk music

Tibetan and Bhutanese instrumental and folk music
Volume 4 / Volume 2
Various musicians
Lyrichord 7258 [CD]
Sub Rosa SR 230 [CD]


  1. Song with lute self-accompaniment (Bhutanese dramnyen, a 7-stringed lute, played by Ge-te Do-pe of Talo)
  2. Song with lute self-accompaniment
  3. Tuning of Bhutanese lute
  4. Lute solo
  5. Whistle flute (played by Ge-te Do-pe)
  6. Folksongs (sung by Droma of Talo)
  7. Folksongs (sung by Droma of Talo)
  8. Folksongs (sung by Trinlem of Tongsa)
  9. Folksongs (sung by Trinlem of Tongsa)
  10. Pawo, oracles' dance and song (with pellet drums)
  11. Tibetan dramnyen (6-stringed lute, played by Amanul of Lhasa)
  12. Ho-chhin (2-stringed fiddle, played by Amanul)
  13. Tibetan minstrel with his young son, singing folksongs from Eastern Tibet (self-accompanied by pi-wang, 2-stringed fiddle)
  14. Tibetan minstrel with his young son, singing folksongs from Eastern Tibet (self-accompanied by pi-wang, 2-stringed fiddle)
  15. Folksong sung by men from Chhokhor in Bumthang District, Eastern Bhutan
  16. Ura Gi Ache Lhamo, women from Ura in Bumthang District (song with drum accompaniment)
  17. Folksong by men from Nub, in Tongsa District
  18. Folksong by women from Nub, in Tongsa District
  19. Folksong sung by Tsewang Lhamo, of Paro
  20. Ache Lhamo, Dance of the Goddess, from the Story of King Norzang (song with cymbal and drum accompaniment)

Playing time: 51'

Recording dates: 1971; released: 1972 (Lyrichord LP), 1993 (Lyrichord CD), 2006 (Sub Rosa)

Although the Lyrichord issue was Volume 4, the Sub Rosa release is listed as Volume 2 — following a double CD release featuring the temple-based first three volumes of the original Lyrichord series as recorded by John Levy.

Presumably I didn't notice this anthology previously because the first three volumes of Tibetan Buddhist religious music were the focus of the original series. (This volume is actually disparaged in some retail reviews, since it doesn't involve temple music.) However, there is fascinating material here, often having little or nothing in common with other music from the broader region. This ends up being a very distinctive set of recorded performances to encounter decades later in the (very nicely done) Sub Rosa remastering & repackaging. (It generally sounds nothing like Indian music, say, and most of it nothing like Chinese....) The album thus presents a very different view from e.g. the later Central Asian anthology that I found so compelling in the 1990s: One seemingly hears music similar to that of Yemen (or even Ethiopia), Java, etc. coming from the Himalayan foothills.

That said, I've made only modest effort to discover more recent, similar music. I don't know to what extent these styles have changed after nearly fifty years, but online summaries claim that traditional music remains strong in Bhutan.... So maybe there is something new & exciting — other than Westernized material, obviously — to emerge?

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T. M. McComb