Music of Bhutan is an integral of its identity and culture. More than entertainment, it plays leading role in transmitting social values. Bhutanese traditional music instruments are made from locally available natural materials and accompany traditional songs and dance. Following are the 4 most popular music instrument of Bhutan.
Dramnyen is a 7 stringed Bhutanese lute belonging to the plucked category of instruments. With a long neck and two waists, it’s the oldest and the most famous of all instruments in Bhutan. It does not have frets.
It is made from wood, leather and yak or ox bone. A typical dramnyen is approximately 3-4 feet in length. It is played with a plectrum of triangular bone or wood.
The origin of dramnyen in Bhutan is associated with Guru Rinpochey. It is also the hand-symbol of Yangchen Lhamo, Goddess of Music.
Chiwang is a two-stringed bowed music instrument, more specifically a spike fiddle. It is sometimes known as the Bhutanese violin.
Chiwang consists of a long vertical stick-like neck, and at the bottom is a small resonator body which is covered with animal skin on the front. Two strings, made from horse tail, are attached from the pegs to the base. The bow, made of bamboo threaded with horse tail is already fixed between 2 strings.
To produce music, bowing is done horizontally, with right-hand fingering techniques for altering the bow tension and for crossing strings. Chiwang is believed to have originated in Mongolia.
Lim is a wind instrument made from bamboo that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening. Although there are many kinds, zurlim (blown horizontally) and donglim (blown vertically) are the most common. Both consist of six finger holes at measured distances and one embouchure hole.
Though unpopular, other smaller and shorter flutes also exist in Bhutan.
Yangchin is a percussion stringed instrument which consists about 20 steel strings typically stretched over a trapezoidal resonate sound board made from wood. The yangcin is played with a pair of bamboo beaters having rubber heads.
Originated in Iran, yangchin was introduced in China by European traders in the 17th Century and in Bhutan by Tibetan refugees in the 1960s. Today, it’s an essential item of traditional music.
Other traditional instruments include kongkha (bamboo mouth harp), gombu (bull or buffalo horn), tsaiding ing dramnyen (bamboo drum) and many more but are unpopular.