Tibetan Music Preservation

Traditional and Classical Music


1999. and Toshae Recording Project.

Nangma and Toshae are two styles of traditional classical music from Lhasa, Tibet.  These two styles of music were vibrant in Lhasa until Tibet was occupied in 1959.  In exile the music was taught mainly at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, in Dharamsala India by elder musicians where Jhola Techung studied them.

About seven years ago, Jhola Techung had the urge to record and leave his version of Nangma and Toshae for the future listeners. His elder teachers have mostly passed away and they have not left any recordings of their music. What he had learned, was that if he doesn’t record and perform them, they can vanish soon. Thus the recording project started. His initial fundraising support from his family members and friends allowed him to record seven songs which are available for listening at http://www.soundcloud.com/techung

There are about seventy three more songs to record, including full length songs, each about 6 minutes, and shorter pieces known as Trukshae or fast dance songs, each about 3 minutes. These pieces will be released in two phases:  Phase I thirty songs, Phase two forty three songs and will include traditional guest artists.
In recent years Tibetans inside and outside, of Tibet and especially a growing number of  the younger generation seem to show some interest in traditional music. There are also other recordings of Nangma and Toshae coming out of Tibet as well as in exile which adds to the collection of the different styles for listeners.

Jhola Techung’s teachers where Gen Lutsa la, who was the main music teacher at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in the 70’s and Garpon Pasang Dhondup-la, who visited TIPA from Lhasa in the 80’s.  He had also listened and studied from recordings of elder musicians such as famous 60’s female singer Anen la, and Dramnyen versatile Chushi Yeshi Dolma and others.

After these two recording projects, Jhola Techung would like to plan a concert tours. The idea is to share these recordings but also to gather with traditional musicians to collaborate and exchange ideas to promote traditional and classical music, engage younger generation by way of workshops and music lessons live and online.
Your support to this project will allow him to accomplish his musical dreams of preserving and sharing these endangered musical tradition of Tibet to the world.

More about Nangma

Our teachers and elders told us that Nangma was originally from Kashmir. Tibetans call Kashmiri muslims who live in Tibet Kahche. The name Nangma is a derived from Balti word of Nagma which means music. Although a small community, they are an integral part of the Tibetan society in Lhasa. During the time of the 5th Dalai Lama (1617-1682), Lhasa Kaches were granted land, which allowed them to settle and practice their culture. Some of the most famous Nangma players in Lhasa have names like Bai Wolila, Isbula, Hamai Ri.

Photo: Musicians playing two kinds of Piwang (violin): the first one on the left is the Piwang Bompa (bass Piwang); the instrument to its right is the treble Piwang trawa. The next instrument is Lingbu (bamboo flute).

Listen to a Nangma musical sample: ༑ ནང་མ་ཨ་མ་ལེ་ཧོ། Nangma Amale Ho

More about Toshae
Toshae is a music genre from Western Tibet: To means ‘upper’, Shae means ‘songs’. Lhasa’s Toshae originated from Toe from places like Dhingri, Nyalam, Shelkar and regions close to Mt. Everest. These regions are also known for a form of folk dance called Gorshae or circle dance. Gorshae and Toshae are synonoms.
It is believed that Toshae was brought to Lhasa from Western Tibet by the famous blind master musician Acho Namgyal. Although some of the Toshae still carry the same name, the characteristic of the music changed quite dramatically: instead of circle dancing and group singing, it has become a sitting music and the singer is solo with music ensemble. The notes are more refined and stretched and musicians sit while playing. During the fast sections of the piece, the singer or a solo dancer dances to the rhythm music or Trukshae.

Listen to a sample of Toshae: Toshae Gyaltsen Ri-Victory Hill སྟོད་གཞས་རྒྱལ་མཚན་རི།

Both Nangma and Toshae are played by a group of musicians known as Nangmai Kidu or an ensemble. They are professionals who perform these music during Buddhist sacred festival, in private gathering but most famously in the picnic areas of Norbu Linka, the summer palace of the Dalai Lama.

Musicians and Collaborators:

Jhola Techung aka Tashi Sharzur, project director  is a traditional Tibetan folk and freedom singer/songwriter living in exile. In addition to being looked up to as one of the key keepers of traditional Tibetan musical and dance traditions, Techung is also respected for the original solo and collaborative music he creates by drawing on both his own heritage and his familiarity with other world music traditions.

Tsering Phuntsok is a professional musician living in Toronto, Canada. He has studied music in Gangtok -Sikkim, and later joined the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA). He has already collaborated on Techung’s album Macha, in 2013. On the present project, Tsering will accompany on all traditional instruments.


Chemi Youdon is an accomplished singer who has also graduated from TIPA.  She lives in Boston, USA. She studied under Gen. Lutsa la and later became a teacher at TIPA. She has recorded numerous albums with TIPA.

Chuki Tethong is an accomplished singer and former TIPA student living in Dharamsala, India. She has recorded several albums: Voices from Tibet (2000), Voices from Tara (2002), Where the Heart Blossoms (2004), Songs From The Forgotten (2005), Songs of Milarepa (2006).

Guang Wang is a master cellist from China, now living in Atlanta, USA. Mr. Wang has a long-spanning solo career and has worked with such maestros as Michael Tilson Thomos and other renowned composers.

Sonam Tashi aka Acho Danny is a composer and professional musician who had studied music at TIPA. He was a founding member of Chaksampa Tibetan Dance and Opera Company based in San Francisco.

Meeting With Tibetan Artists

Meeting with Tibetan Artist




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