Traditional music of Bhutan

Men and women folk dancers from the Royal Academy of Performing Arts. Thimphu tsechu, Bhutan.

Traditional culture is shared experiences that are transferred from generation to generation. The music of Bhutan is one of the most important culturally binding influences that have for a generation been the source of transmitting knowledge, history nationalism, and spiritually. Bhutanese music has traditional genres such as zhundra, Boedra, and a modern genre called Rigsar.

Zhungdra is one of the most important subgenres of folk music in Bhutan. It was developed in 17th century. Zhungdra is considered as one of the most difficult genres to execute even the trained singers find it challenging to sing because of the extended vocal tones that are sung in a complex patterns. zhungdra are songs that can be performed as well as danced. The zhungdra is said to be originated in the dzongs or centers of administrative, civil and religious activity.  Literally meaning the melody of the center the zhungdra the spread from village to village.

Boedra is a vital subgenre of the folk music of Bhutan. Boedra originated out of the Tibetan court music and was spread by the Boed Garps who travelled from village to village on official tours. The boedra songs are usually danced in a circle. The boedra music is relatively easier to sing compared to zhungdra. The musical instruments that are often used for the composition of a boedra song include the fiddle (chiwang), dramyin and the flute (lingm).

The modern popular music genre that began in the 1960s is referred to as Rigsar. The main difference between traditional music and rigsar is the use of electronic instruments and the use of vernacular language. The rigsar features mostly in films and television of Bhutan. From the 1980s onwards the rigsar music found its importance which is most common on the streets and daily life styles of the people and it is also most popular with youths who like the fast pace and easier to sing. The theme of rigsar music primarily resolves around love.


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