Loading Posts...

Inhale Air, Exhale Power with Phurpa’s “Rituals of Bön I”

by Andrew Schmitt

Support Andrew by checking out his post-industrial project Misandr here.

At this juncture, there have been so many words detailing Phurpa’s majesty and sublime nature that it feels almost futile to think that I could offer something that others have not. Still, Phurpa evokes different things for different people, and their soul-vibrating intonations touch us in the deepest recesses of our souls.

Through the interviews I have read with Alexei Tegin, the traditions endemic to Bön hold a much greater appeal to me than other forms of Buddhism, and from his influence I have been inspired to delve further into these esotericisms. In the broadest strokes, it appears that accounts of Bön being the indigenous, pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet to be mostly incorrect, as a result of the rise of Bön not happening until the eleventh century. It would appear that there is no evidence of pre-Buddhist systematic religions occurring in Tibet. I bring this up not to discredit the rich history or traditions of Bön, but to put the record as straight as I can given the information I have.

To speak of the experience of listening to Phurpa, is to begin an attempt at experiencing the transformative power of Bön rituals. Purely acoustic, and largely driven by the human lungs and mouth, Phurpa creates massive reverberations even at low volumes (though if you’re not listening to Phurpa as loud as possible, you are Doing It Wrong). The sense of ritual intent is pervasive and overwhelming, and one cannot help but feel affected, even through the speakers of your home stereo system.


Phurpa is an experience of which everyone should partake, be it musical, religious, or cultural interest that drives them. The power inherent, the drone ascendant, the sympathetic frequencies of the overtones; all of these provide great stimulation. Especially if you are someone who finds themselves in need of auditory sensory release.

Despite the main instrument of Phurpa being that of human generation, there are other voicings at play. Flat cymbals that ring and clang, brazen sonorous horns, and deep drums all provide dynamics and help to guide the proceedings. It is important to remember that in the eyes and intent of its creator, Phurpa is not music; Phurpa is ritual. These are documentations of ceremonies delivered with great intent and power, meant to evoke “objective forms in overlooked categories.”

Regardless of your view of Phurpa’s espoused spirituality, ideology, and philosophy, it is an aural experience unmatched by any other I have encountered. I again encourage all to submerse themselves in Phurpa’s bone-rumbling frequencies and draw their own conclusions from the vibrations.