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Tibet Traditional Music

Time: 11-06-2018 This Article is Composed by BudgetTibetTour

Traditional music of Tibet is usually classified into four types: Palace Music, Folk Music, Religious Music and Opera Music.

Palace Music

Palace music in Tibet usually refers to such music as the Potala Palace entertainment during the period of the local government of Tibet, and it also includes that played in the palaces of all local grand Living Buddha's with various monasteries. It can be classifies into three types:

"Gar" (dance) music. This involves singing and dancing, and is often played by "Suona", "Damar" drum and clarinet.

Palace Music

"Garlo" (song) music. The song has a graceful and elegant melody, and it is often played by "dranyen" violin, dulcimer, "Piwang" (stringed instrument), flute, "genka" (stringed instrument), etc.

Welcoming and seeing-off music accompanied by drum beats, and light music. They belong to pure instrumental music, and welcoming and seeing-off music accompanied by drum beats is often played by "Suona","Damar" drum and clarinet; light music is often played by clarinet and "Damar" drum.

Palace music often represents religion or songs in praise of religion. In the past, players of amusement music were men, showing the sanctity and holiness of religion.

Folk Music

Folk music occupies a large proportion of traditional music of Tibet. In regard to types, numbers, abundant content, coverage and playing frequency, it is always listed at the head of the four types of music of Tibet. According to styles, folk music can be classified into five types: singing and dancing, ballad, labor songs, talking and singing, and instrumental.

Folk Music

Singing and dancing music. This includes Goshie, Shieqen, Raba, Duishie, Nangmar, Shuanzi, Agar, Chogar, Kaibakaimar, Shuan, So-o, and so on. The Tibetan word "Goshie" has the meaning of singing and dancing in a circle. It has spread to all the Tibetan-inhabited areas, and prevails especially in rural areas, "Shieqen" is singing and dancing of sobriety and elegance played at grand and ceremonious celebrations. ‘Shieqen" is popular in most villages and towns in Tibet, but in pasturing areas in northern Tibet and eastern Tibet, this kind of art are not popular.

"Raba" is folk singing and dancing popular in eastern Tibet and the Changtang Grasslands; Dingqen Raha is the most famous. The music of "Raba" includes two types: one is music accompany dancing; the other one is singing or interludes, accompanied by "Raba" drum and brass bells. A yak horn qin is often played for accompaniment.

"Duishie" is folk singing and dancing popular on the Tibetan plateau. "Dui" in Tibetan has the meaning of "upper" referring specifically such counties as Tingri, Lharze, Sagya, Ongren and Ngari areas in upper reaches of the Yarlung Zangho River; "shie" in Tibetan has the meaning of singing and dancing. With the establishment of the local government of Tibet "Gandain Phoodrang", cultural exchanges became increasingly frequent and active in Tibetan-inhabited areas, and the singing and dancing art of "Duishie" was gradually introduced to the Lhasa area and transformed by folk actors according to characteristics of folk music there, changing from rude, sanguine, and active "Duiba Duishie" to light, lively, graceful and implicative "Lhasa Duishie" Today on the Tibetan Plateau there are three co-existing types of "Duishie": "Lhasa Duishie", "Lharze Duishie" and "Tingri Duishie".

Folk Music

"Nangmar" singing and dancing is often popular in the cities of Lhasa and Shigatse. The accompaniment of "Nangmar" singing and dancing is almost the same as "Duishie" and is often played by dulcimer, urhien, jinghu, flute and stringed bells.

The word of "Shuanzi" originated from accompaniment of yak horn pin, and it is a folk singing and dancing popular in eastern Tibet.

"Agar" is a singing and dancing during construction work, most popular on the Tibetan Plateau. It is an old and traditional art of singing and working while constructing monasteries, palaces, and manors, and repairing building roofs or the inside and outside floors.

"Chogar" is a dancing with a round and flat waist drum. It is popular in the rural areas of Lhasa and Shannan.

In Tibetan, the word of "Kaibakaimar" has the meaning of men and women singers and dancers. This sort of singing and dancing is popular in some rural areas, including Ritog County in Ngari district.

Folk Music

"Shuan" is an old folk singing and dancing popular in Ngari district with special style and long history.

"So-o" is an old singing and dancing from popular in Sagya County in Shigatse district, and it often appears in religious festivals.

Ballads. In respect of styles, ballads in Tibet can be divided into toast songs, love songs, pilgrimage songs, antiphonal songs, field songs (pasturing songs), children's songs, praising songs, escorting-bride songs, expedition songs, guessing songs, ballad ditty, bandit songs, etc. Among them, toast songs, lose songs, children's songs, escorting-bride songs and antiphonal songs are spread most widely overt the Tibetan-inhabited areas. Field songs have another name of pasturing songs and are often popular in the Kham area (including Nagqu), with free rhythm and loud and long timbre. Expedition songs were played before armies' left fora battle or returning home from victories in ancient times. And it is said that it prevailed during the Tuba Kingdom period, and later it was popular in some areas in Tibet, including Qunggyi County of Shannan district. Bandit songs are often popular in some counties in the Nagqu area.


Work songs. Labong songs in Tibet can be divided into five types, i.e. those sung during construction, agricultural work, pasturing, sideline jobs and transporting. Construction work songs include earth-moving songs, huge stones and timbers-moving songs, stone-carrying songs, tamping-groundsill songs, tamping-wall songs and "Agar clay" songs, etc.

Agricultural work songs include plowing songs, earth-moving songs, weeding songs, carrying-fertilizer songs, and grain-threshing songs, etc.

Pasturing work songs include herding songs, butter-making songs, shearing songs, milking songs, butter-refining songs, etc.

Work songs

Sideline work songs include weaving pulu woolen fabrics songs, washing pulu woolen fabrics songs, frying qingke barley songs, grinding feedstuff songs, oil-pressing songs, arrow songs, etc.

Transporting work songs include home and mule state songs, donkey state songs, driving yak songs, paddling yak hide rafts songs, etc.

Talking and singing music. The talking and singing music in Tibet include Gesar, Lama Mani, etc. Talking and singing music is characterized by talking for a while and singing for a while, talking before singing, and circling a course.

"Gesar" talking and singing music is often popular in Nagqu in northern Tiibet and Qamdo in eastern Tibet.

Work songs

"Lama Mani" talking and singing music is often popular in areas of Lhasa, Shigatse, and Shannan in the middle areas of Tibet: "Zhegar" talking and singing music is mostly popular around the whole Tibetan-inhabited areas, and contains some simple dances during talking and singing.

"Gorlo" is an old Tibetan ballad. It was developed in three stages: the initial one was "Gorlo" of TuboTsampo (king) period, the medium one was "GorIo" of the feudalist separatist regime period (Gorlo of Milha Raba is typical), and later one was "Gorlo" of the local government period of "Gandain Phodrang" (Gorlo of the 6th Dalai Lama Camyang Gyamco is typical); "Shia" is an antiphonal ballad mostly popular on the Tibetan Plateau, and it is usually played during various religious festivals; the word of "Zonglu" in Tibetan has the meaning of songs sung in storytelling, and it has another name of folk song of story-telling, popular throughout Tibet.

Instrumental Music

Instrumental music in Tibet is not very developed. There were many instruments during each historical stage, but most were played more in religious music than in folk art, Even if it was used by the folk, it only served as accompaniment to folk songs or dances and hardly showed up solo. In the early 20th Century, military bands emerged in the Tibetan army. The instruments played were tuba, trumpet, French horn, trombone flute, piccolo, large and small military drums and plucked stringed instruments. The songs played included foreign works, Tibetan folk music, and some Han Songs.

Religious Music

Before 1951, when Tibet won peaceful liberation, almost all people in Tibet believed in religion. Hence, religious music occupied a vital position in Tibetan society. Religious music in Tibet is another name for monastery music, and it can be divided into music of the Bon and Tibetan Buddhism. Performances were carried on during religious festivals, and wherever religious activity is, there is religious music.

Religious Music

Religious instruments often have "Tongqen" (Buddhist horns), which are applied in large-scale ceremonies. "Gyaling" is a wind instrument originating inhabited areas and is often applied in large-scale ceremonies as well. "Suona" is an instrument originated from Arabia and is often applied in various ceremonies. Drums of long handle or bell drums are often played in the halls of the Buddhist guardians and ceremonies. Big gongs or brass gongs are often used to announce the rallying time of monks. White sea conch is one or the important accompaniment instruments in religious ceremonies; the big sea conch is mainly used in Tantric ceremonies; in the Sagya, Nvingma and Gagyu Sects, this sort of instrument is often used in praising Songs.

Opera Music

This includes Tibetan opera, Qamdo opera, Moinha opera and etc. Tibetan opera is the general name of Tibetan opera arts. Qamdo opera and Moinba opera both belong to Tibetan opera, while the music for voice and performing form of these operas are obviously different from Tibetan opera in the U-Tsang area.

Opera Music

In regard to the color of the masks, Tibetan opera can he divided into two kinds: white mask opera and blue mask opera. It is usually believed that blue mask opera was created by the famous accomplished monk Thang Stong Rgyal Po of the Gagyu Sect of Tibetan Buddhism in the 14th century. Later, during a long development course, it evolved into eight lists of opera, including Prince Norsang and Princess Wencheng.

A drum and a plucked stringed instrument serve as accompaniment and the music is particularly characterized by long rhythm and loud tone.

Other Travelers' Questions

The questions raised by our past customers can help you get a more clear picture about tours to Tibet, read them or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side, our specialists will reply you within 24 hours.

user portrait Ms. Ho*** from: 7 Days Lhasa to Kathmandu Tour via Everest Base Camp


My husband and I are looking at travel in April 2019. We currently are only a group of 2, but it is possible we may have another 2 friends join us.
We are comparing tours for the 7 day tour from Lhasa to Kathmandu. What price can you offer for group tour for 2 (or 4 people) for the Lhasa to Kathmandu trips if we were to book in the next two weeks?

Many thanks,

Answered by Nancy

Dear Ms. Ho***,

Greetings from Nancy Chung at Budget Tibet Tour, thanks for visiting our website and sending your inquiry, if there are 4 people in your group, I recommend you to take it as private tour, thus you will have the guide and driver on your own, and the tour can be flexible. If there are 2 in your group, of course take part in a group tour is better, and we have several groups in April, or we can open a new date based on your travel time, and our group size is 4 to 13 people. And if you will book in next weeks, I can apply some discount for you. Please check the email for more details. Best regards.

Email to Nancy about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

user portrait Ms. Mi*** from: 4 Days Lhasa Holy Landmarks Express

I am interested in a tour with you all in and around Lhasa for a party of two.
We would be arriving on the 23rd of December and departing on the 25th.

We plan on arriving on train from Chengdu, China on the 23rd. Thinking of doing a monastery/temple tour the day we arrive. On the 24th, our full day, we would be interested in going to Yamdrok lake or something similar, 25th be in Lhasa to see rest other temples/monastery before we fly out in the evening.

We would like to get a tentative itinerary and price for the trip all inclusive.
Transportation, hotel stay, meals and Tibet permit. 

Thank you so much,

Answered by Helen

Hi Ms. Mi***,

Thanks very much for your inquiry. According to your itinerary, there is no group tour that suits for you, while we can arrange a private tour for you. Taking private tour, our guide will take you to visit all the scenic spots that you mentioned, and we will give you a quotation of this tour based on two of you, which includes transportation, hotel, guide and Tibet Permit. I will send detailed itinerary and quotation to you by email, please check your email. Warm regards.

Email to Helen about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

user portrait Mr. Go*** from: Why Mount Kailash is worshiped as the most sacred mountain in Tibet?

I want to organize tours to Tibet from Nepal can you sent me cost rate for all tours what you organize with detail itinerary

Answered by Nancy

Dear Mr. Go***,

Greetings from Nancy Chung at Budget Tibet Tour, thanks for visiting our website and sending your inquiry, please kindly let me know your nationality if you will visit Kailash, as we cannot apply Tibet permit to Kailash for Indian passport holders, and also Kailash is not possible to go from late Oct to early April due to the cold weather, and it will closed. If you will just take the tour from Kathmandu to Lhasa via Mt. Everest, which will be no problem to go year around (except every March). If you can provide how many people in your group and when you would like to take this tour, you will get the precise quote within 24 hours. Thanks and best regards to you.

Email to Nancy about any question or tell us your own questions via the form on the right side

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7 Days Lhasa to Kathmandu Tour via Everest Base Camp