Tibetan throat singing - the song of the plateau


WindhorseTour Travel Team's picture

When your Tibet train tour arrives at the station in Lhasa, you may be greeted by the reverberating undertones of a strange chant like you've never heard before. Your Lhasa tour will surely bring you to place after place where you hear this same guttural singing - what in the world is it?

One aspect of Tibetan Buddhism that is widely practiced, especially in the monasteries that dot the Tibetan plateau, is mantra chanting. The chanting is often a musical recitation that comes from deep in the throat, thereby dubbed "throat singing." Throat singing is also called "overtone singing" and there are a number of different cultures that practice it. 

Generally, Tibetan chants hold to the lowest pitches capable - by changing the shape of the resonant cavities of the mouth and throat, the lower vocal register made by the human voice can be selectively amplified. Using this method, Tibetan chanters can create more than one pitch at the same time, which can be maintained as long as the practitioner has breath.

If you are taking a tour to Tibet, you may run across a ceremony at one of the Buddhist monasteries in Lhasa or elsewhere. Usually, one of the main components of many such ceremonies is all the monks of that particular monastery chanting at the same time! Try to imagine such a scene, or come trek Tibet to see for yourself!

When you are walking on the streets of  Lhasa, Tibet, you may hear Tibetan throat singers in unison coming from a monastery or temple. If your Tibet tour affords the opportunity, try to listen for the different sound groups as they chant the Buddhist sutras.

Visit over LosarTibetan New Year, and you will be sure to hear choirs of voices chanting their deep, throaty songs!

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