Pastoral folk music from the hills of Ladakh

Tsering Angchuk hopes he will be able to visit and play at Dilli Haat this December

Tsering Angchuk
Tsering Angchuk

Garima Sadhwani

He is uncertain about his age. He could be 55 or 56, says the musician from Ladakh Tsering Angchuk, with a smile and a shrug. He plays traditional folk songs on instruments made from goatskin. The Drumyan and Piwang have six and three strings each respectively.

They have been inspired by Tibetan culture and form a major part of the folk tradition of the Chungthang community, to which Angchuk belongs.

Both these instruments use the bark of trees as their wooden base, and are then covered in goatskin. It is believed goatskin enhances the quality of sound, and naturally increases the bass of the instrument.

Angchuk is not sure how goatskin began to be used for making instruments, but he’s sure it's something that’s auspicious since it has been used since ancient times. After putting the strings, the instruments are painted and coloured with symbols of cultural significance in Ladakh.

Playing and selling the instruments for over 20 years, Angchuk has showcased his talent at different places and events. For the past two years, he has been participating in the annual

exhibition at Dilli Haat, where people from Ladakh converge to showcase their traditional folk culture, dance, food, and even mattresses (that are specially made out of sheep wool in Ladakh). The Ladakh administration funds the trip and 20 days’ stay in the national capital for the exhibition that generally takes place in December and January.

Besides Dilli Haat, Angchuk has represented Ladakh at cultural festivals in Rajasthan and and Gujarat also for almost one and a half decades.

Tsering Jampal, Angchuk’s son, adds, “My father has performed at the Republic Day event twice. He has also performed at the Indian Commonwealth Games. He’s been to Russia and the Czech Republic as well.”

His father has had no formal training in music, he informs. Growing up, his father’s only exposure to music, however little, was through Jampal’s grandfather who had some knowledge about the instruments business. Besides that, Angchuk used to take the family’s cattle for grazing, as a little boy, and while they would graze, he’d sit and sing along with his friends.

Jampal says, “My father doesn’t know Sa re ga ma pa or the chords used to play classical music, but he can just listen to a song and play it on the Drumyan or Piwang. He learnt everything on the job- from playing the instrument to making it.”

The number of students in Angchuk’s class, and his instrument sales have gone up after media coverage. People are inquisitive about Ladakhi music and want to know what instrument you’re playing, how you’ve made it, and how they can learn it, he exclaims.

Both father and son hope for more patronage for Ladakhi music in the coming months.

Click here to join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines