Druk Yul Trio


Druk Yul Trio
Mysteries of Bhutan
available on demand
3 artists on stage

Namkha Lhamo, vocal
Lhamo Dukpa, vocal
Jigme Drukpa, dranyen

The duet of singers Namkha Lhamo and Lhamo Dukpa presents a vast popular repertoire, which highlights in particular the not-widely known tradition of Bumthang (Middle Bhutan), from where come the most famous singers.

The ethereal sweetness of their voices seems to glide over the valleys and pine forests and tropical jungles, relief of this young " country of the dragon ".

Official singers of the royal family, they were rewarded as “Best singers of Bhutan”.

Accompanied by the dranyen, the traditional six and a half ropes lute, Jigme Drukpa’s reserved voice wanders between deep emotion and meditative innocence. He is one of the most renowned folk musicians of the Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. He plays several traditional instruments such as the dranyen (traditional lute), a variety of flutes, mouth harp, harmonica and the dulcimer. His vocal skills render him one of Bhutan's best folk singers in the Zhungdra and Boedra traditions. He currently holds the position of Vice Principal, Royal Academy of Performing Arts, Thimphu, Bhutan.

Jigme Drukpa was born in eastern Bhutan and he is the only bhutanese ethnomusicologist. He attended his master's essay in Norway in 1999. Jigme has lectured, toured and performed in many countries around the world, in Europe, North America and Asia.

He has been able through his teaching and his practical experience to highlight and to spread a not well-known tradition.

As a musician he intuits what is best in his people, creating sounds that are at times serene, at times vital and animated, but always meaningful and engaging for the listener
Prof. Roland Jackson, Ph. D. Emeritus, Claremont Graduate University, CA, USA.


Bhutan is a tiny kingdom snuggled up at the feet of the Himalaya and is one of the most mysterious countries of the planet. After centuries of isolation, it is quietly opening up to the outside world revealing some of its mysteries and peculiarities.

Kingdom of Lords, visionary men and heavenly dreamers, of monasteries and fortresses of another world, Bhutan seems to rise out of a fairy tale. The demons of the spiritual world live together with the marvels of a nature sublimated by the magnificence of these mountains covered in small prayer flags.

The history of this small country goes back 8th century, when mythical Guru Padmasambhava arrived from Tibet to Taksang, flying on the back of a tigress above the cliffs overhanging the valley of Paro. Padmasambhava, " Guru rinpoché ", considered as a second Buddha thus began to spread Mahayana Buddhism (tantric) on Bhutan territory.

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, both a monk and a statesman, will unify the country in the 17th century. He will settle a unified government, promulgate laws and will organize a complex network of fortresses (dzong ), which will  be at the same time religious and administrative centres.

Bhutan is the only kingdom in the world today to be officially associated to Mahayana Buddhism. It tentatively opened its doors to tourism in 1974, which did not alter the deep and fierce attachment of the " country of the dragon” to its heritage and tradition.    

In Bhutan, singings and dances express joy and happiness but they also have a deeper meaning in Buddhist context; by giving joy and by being offerings to divinities, singings and dances allow the accumulation of merits for next coming life. More than the performance itself it is the meaning of the singings that is important. A Bhutanese proverb says: “Listen to the melody not to the voice, listen to the words not to the melody, understand the meaning not the words”.

Singings are orally passed on from master to pupil; melody and lyrics are simultaneously taught. The first songbooks only appeared in the mid eighties.

Today singings divide into eight categories according to their theme: monks’ prayer and worship songs, religious songs, songs for the king, for the country, songs of happiness, of love, of sadness and of good wishes.


Traditional zhungdra, boedra and gurma chants

The three genres presented here are among the most representative of Bhutan’s classic musical tradition, which uses the pentatonic scale, but they differ in the arrangement of tones: the classic zhungdra characteristic of Bhutan, the boedra coming from Tibet and the gurma, that is songs devoted to Milarepa, the great mystical tibetan poet  (1040-1123) and to his disciple Rechungpa.

While zhungdra and boedra are to be sung only by laymen and are often enlivened with dances, gurma can be sung by laymen as well as by monks and are never danced.  

Zhungdra means " central melody " or " melody belonging to the State ". It seems that this style of singings was born in 17th century in fortresses, symbols of power and then spread over the country. These monotonous chants with no rhythm, using CDFGA tones, are solemn and often performed without any music or simply with the six and a half ropes lute. They can be sung and danced by laymen, men and women. They are put into choekê verses, "religion tongue", that is in classic Tibetan and they speak mostly about religion. The accompanying dances are performed in a line facing the altar, the monks or the distinguished guests and in a respectful attitude.  

Zhungdra dancers and singers must be very careful of their behaviour and voice in order to give a good performance. Four faults are to be avoided: singing with a too high-pitched voice or with a shrill voice, being sullen and waiting for the other participants to begin. The learning of zhungdra insists on the right way just to pitch the voice which must not either be drowned out by the music.

The songs convey positive social and religious values: respecting human life, being aware of the importance of giving a meaning to one’s life and of its non-eternity, the faith, being respectful and grateful to masters or to elders, wishing good fortune… Zhungdra songs are also imbued with notions such as the importance of Nature and the belief that it is a living entity.

Boedra. This word can mean whether "songs of Tibet", and in that case these songs would have been influenced by Tibetan music, or "songs of courtiers". According to this hypothesis, courtiers called Boe Garp who moved in the country for official missions would have popularized boedra. Boedra would have appeared later than zhungdra. As zhungdra, these songs are put into choekê verses and the voice has to be powerful enough so that the music does not drown it out. Folk songs speaking mostly everyday life, boedras are generally played on a fast rhythm and use CDEGA and CDFGA tones. Men and women of all classes perform the accompanying dances in circles.

Gurmas are devoutness songs composed by eminent monks including Milarepa, mystic Tibetan poet (1040-1123) or, recently, Dudjom Rinpoche (1904-1983), master of the mying ma pa school. They are in choekê and in seven or eight syllables verses. Gurmas are not enlivened with dances because they don’t aim at entertainment but are intended to strengthen the faith. They can be sung by monks but also, often during religious feasts by groups of laic men or women.

Françoise Pommaret