The second volume -- of a projected four -- in Sub Rosa's reissue of John Levy's historic 1971 field recordings from Bhutan centers around less religious -- though no less spiritually moving -- music. Tibetan and Bhutanese Instrumental and Folk Music includes fine examples of social music for instruments and voices. There are Bhutanese seven-string lutes (called dramnyen), whistle flutes, folk songs from the Chhokhor, Bumthang, Tongsa (songs by groups of men, and followed by a group of women), Paro, and eastern Tibet. There are songs by yak herdsmen, dance songs with cymbals and drum accompaniment, two-string fiddle tunes, and an oracle's dance for welcoming important guests with Tibetan lutes and drums. Lest anyone reading this think it would be boring to hear this music, think again. This is not only strange, it's utterly compelling. Impeccably recorded and painstakingly remastered from the Lyrichord masters, this music is haunting, majestic, full of integrity and goodwill. Bhutan is a consciously guarded county from the outside world, much in the same way Tibet was before World War II. Visitors are restricted in number. Levy was invited to Bhutan by its King to document the musical traditions of his nation. What he discovered there was a music out of time; otherworldly because it was. Bhutan's folk music and the sounds and rituals performed in the country's Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries had rarely, if ever, been visited by a Westerner, and it is presented here with care. Given how truly strange and frightening some of the Buddhist ritual music can be to the uninitiated, this would be a perfect place to begin for a listener interested in the ancient indigenous musical traditions of the Himalayan region.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek