After leaving Darjeeling we headed for Kalimpong, a small Ghorka city where we recorded Sandy Denny’s “Rising for the moon” in a flower garden with the snowy peaks of the Himalaya in the background. The next morning as we left quite early, I walked down the hill into town in a very good mood. As I passed a Buddhist monastery below with prayer flags waving in the wind and the snow mountains in sight, I heard the low sound of prayer coming out of the building and I stopped for a while. It seemed like a perfect moment.
Then we drove to lower India, passed the poor but beautiful province Assam, where we travelled the last few miles with armed police escorte (for there’d been about 30 kidnappings there in the last month). On a desolated road we proceeded through the rural border area. And then..entered Bhutan.
Being there, after two hard months of travelling, was wonderful. Like a fairytale. We crossed the border at Gelephu, a quite uncommon crossing where no group of western cars had entered before..and there was a welcome commity of Bhutanese school children there. Very overwhelming. It made me smile.
After two days of driving through Bhutan’s gorgeous mountain landscape we reached the capital Thimphu where we played at the Kilu Music School. Arnold donated the cittern and the other musical instruments. Also a giclee of Henk Helmantel’s still life painting of the cittern was presented to a representative of the Bhutanese Government. To me personally the highlight that day was meeting Namkha and Lhamo, the two royal traditional singers of Trio Druk Yul, with whom I rehearsed a Bhutanese song that we would record together the next day.
The next day we also met with Jigme of Trio Druk Yul, a very special encounter. The five of us rehearsed in our hotelroom, Bert on the cittern, Jigme on his dranyen (a beautiful 6 stringed instrument with a dragon shaped end). Hans filmed it all and that afternoon we went to the Dzong (see the earlier pictures) to make some outside recordings. We repeated our rehearsals the next day and performed together at the finale, the big centenary concert, as part of the festivities of the crowning of the King in the center of Thimphu on the festival grounds aside the river. All was broadcasted live by Bhutanese national television. Afterwards Namkha, Lhamo and Jigme took us to a National Gross Happiness congres in another part of town, where the five of us perfomed once more. As we were about to start the power went off and the lights went out, but that made it all the more special, as we started singing and playing in the dark untill it switched on again.
And then, after our short, but very intense stay in Bhutan, we flew home and entered the Dutch winter. It has been a tremendous journey of numerous impressions. I’m looking forward to the release of the DVD as well as to future collaborations with the musicians we met along the way. I will still be writing on this blog if there’s any news..
Linde, The Netherlands
p.s. a special giclee of the still life with cittern by Henk Helmantel (like the one donated to the Bhutanese Government) can be ordered via this link.