The dranyen (Bhutanese dramnyen), or lute, exists in varying forms across the Himalayas is presently developing new forms, differing in size, number of strings and amplification, and taking on new musical roles. I have carried out this research in Tibet and more extensive work in Bhutan, particularly in the east, as well as Nepal in 1991, 1998, 2004 and 2006.
I am undertaking the first comprehensive study of the music of the Lepchas, the original inhabitants of the Sikkimese Himalaya who, today, are a tiny minority in their own land. The music of the Lepchas is unique as it is closely linked to their natural ravine and forest surroundings, their animist religion and to their indigenous language and script. However, Dzongu, where Lepchas maintain their traditional existence, and consequently the culture and music, is now threatened by the proposed next stage of the damming of the Teesta River. This gives dramatic urgency to my study. In 2005, I undertook fieldwork in Sikkim, Kalimpong and Darjeeling.
In April-June 2006, I was invited to Bhutan to be on the jury for the Bhutan Motion Picture Association Film Festival, to give music workshops. I undertook further fieldwork at this time, concentrating on the Bhutanese work of Tangtong Gyalpo, the founder of Tibetan opera in the fifteenth century. I was also able to further document the rapid changes taking place in Butanese music following the 1999 introduction of television and then the internet.