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The traditional Bhutanese guitar

The Rigsar Dranyen
Rigsar Dranyen

A local Bhutanese musician has added extra strings and tuning keys to the traditional Bhutanese guitar or dranyen to create what he calls a "rigsar dranyen".

Unlike the traditional dranyen which has six and half nylon strings, the rigsar dranyen has 15 metal strings, two bridges, and an extra set of tuning keys along the upper neck of the instrument.

"The Rigsar dranyen has a set of new strings (one octave) or the artillery branch which will naturally vibrate while playing on the main strings," says 29-year old musician and composer Sonam Dorji who did the modifications.

"The eight-string artillery branch can be tuned to any song to give a faint background vibration and will never let the singer go out of tune," he said.

One can play lead, rhythm, plucking and stroking on the rigsar dranyen according to Sonam Dorji who specialised in vocal and bowing instruments during his four-year study at Visva-Bhaharati University in India.

Bhutan first ethnomusicologist, Jigme Drukpa, of the royal society of performing arts, says the rigsar dranyen is a healthy development in Bhutanese music. But at the same time he has reservations about outside influence on Bhutanese instruments. "The Bhutanese concept of music and voice stresses on the softness of the sound. The rigsar dranyen is best suited for the changing taste of the Bhutanese audiences for more lively songs in open air concerts," he said.

The ethnomusicologist added that some of the old Bhutanese dranyens did have numerous strings, (sympathetic strings or under strings) to produce more resonance.

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