KCS – Explanatory Words on the Project

Kharnatsang Collection of Skad (KCS) is an audio collection of selected melodic patterns, the so called skad (tib. སྐད།) from the Menri lineage of the Tibetan tradition of Yungdrung Bön.

The core of each skad is a repeating melodic pattern that is mostly applied to different ritual texts. To which texts a particular skad can be applied is summarized in certain books called skad kyi bye brag (tib. སྐད་ཀྱི་བྱེ་བྲག), meaning the „collections of skad“. These collections present lists of texts requiring the same skad.

Under the point „Mentions in the skad kyi bye brag (tib. སྐད་ཀྱི་བྱེ་བྲག)“ in our collection we quote those lists from two skad kyi bye brag, the one written by Gyalchab Yunggyan, the other by Tsultrim Gyaltsen. For the latter we used the latest edition of Tsultrim Gyaltsen’s skad kyi bye brag by the Bön Monastery Triten Norbutse in Kathmandu.

–> view pdf of handwritten copy of Gyalchab Yungyan’s skad kyi bye brag

Gyalchab Yungdrang’s collection became our main reference. Due to this the KCS follows Gyalchab Yunggyan’s order of presenting the skad lists, while Tsultrim Gyltsen’s version is taken as an alternative source. Consequently there might be skad listed in Tsultrim Gyaltsen’s original collection that are not included in the collection presented here.
The reason for this is the narrow time frame in which this work had to be done.
Whoever might notice that we overlooked a skad from Tsultrim Gyaltsen is welcome to contact one of us so we might hopefully add the respective skad later.

For Tibetan: dawanamgyal77@gmail.com
For English: strothmann@bonritualmusic.de

The edition we used to the Tsultrim Gyaltsen quotes was the newest edition of his skad kyi bye brag done by the Bön Monastery Triten Norbutse in Kathmandu.

The KCS audio collection presents one, sometimes two examples for an application of a particular skad to a text.

As mentiond above each skad basically consists in a repeating melodic pattern. However, a skad might have an intial and a final chant associated to it, as well. If so, the repeating pattern is often called tshigshé (tib. ཚིག་བཤེད), meaning „recitation“ or speech chant. The recitation part of a skad often consists of two sections that can be esaily differentiated by their tempo: a part of slow recitation, followed by a part of fast recitation. However, sometimes differences in melody can occur, too.

The possible parts of a skad in their order:

an initial chant: མགོ་གྱེར། | gogyer
a part of slow recitation: འདེབས་རིང་། | debring
a part of fast recitation: འདེབས་ཐུང་། | debthung
a final chant: མཇུག་གྱེར། | juggyer

Up to this point our KCS collection presents mainly the bare melodic pattern with its initial and final chants. Additionally it gives the initial words for each text, so whoever has the text at hand can follow Kharnatsang’s performance. Likewise, those who have the texts listed in the skad kyi bye brag would be able to apply the audio example of the corresponding skad as required.

However, the texts themselves are not included in this collection, yet, neither are summaries of the content of the given examples, nor any translations into English. This a separate task and a laborious undertaking we hope to carry out later, so that a wider audience could be able to get an idea what the recorded chants refer to.

The skad presented here are applied to various ritual genres, among those the bskang ba (tib. བསྐང་བ།). There is a collection of the texts of the bskang ba used in the Protector’s Temple (PT) of Menri Monastery. Once a year they are usually performed in an all-night ceremomy, the bskang ‚bum (tib. བསྐང་འབུམ). We also present here audio examples of the skad used in the most important bskang ba and linked them back to our our audio collection. In most cases we have added a pdf of the original Tibetan manuscript of each bskang ba and marked the places on the text where a particular skad has to be applied.

The list of Menri bskang ba and links to the connected content of the individual bskang ba can be found here:

–> Menri kang bum


Our KCS audio collection of skad was produced from October 2019 to September 2020 at Menri Monastery, Dolanji, India by Geshé and umdze Dawa Namgyal Kharnatsang, and Christiane Strothmann, composer, ethnomusicologist, Essen, Germany. As part of the ethnomusicological dissertation project „Being an umze in Yungdrung Bön. Masters of chant and the function of ritual music.“ (Folkwang Univsersity of the Arts, Essen, Germany, Prof. Dr. Andreas Meyer) it was supported with a yearlong grant by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). The consecutive project on the bskang ba/ was supported by VERYBön e.V. (Society for the Research on the Ritual Music of Yungdrung Bön – German only).

A big thanks to all supporters and helpers of this project, specially to His Holiness the 34th Menri Trizin Lungtok Dawa Dargyal Rinpoche for his generous and limitless support of our collaboration.
Special thanks to Ricardo Canzio who through his decades long pioneering work on the ritual music of the Bönpos, and through his help and friendship inspired this project.