Preserving Bhutan’s Music and Traditions

Email

“Bhutan is developing at a faster pace; traditional customs are not. We need to balance these developments. We are archiving them before they disappear altogether.”

 

The Music of Bhutan Research Centre (MBRC) was formed to preserve and archive age-old Bhutanese traditional songs and performing arts. It was registered as a civil society organisation in 2012. Preserving Bhutan's Music and Traditions

MBRC’s founder, Sonam Kheng Dorji said: “Bhutan is developing at a faster pace; traditional customs are not. We need to balance these developments. We are archiving them before they disappear altogether.”

For this purpose, a team from MBRC travels to distant valleys and villages to record old performing arts, culture, customs, and songs. After researching and documenting these traditional songs, they are carefully archived. It provides the keepers of tradition a platform to showcase their talents and to document traditional songs.

Sonam Kheng Dorji said that at the moment MBRC’s priority is to archive the documented files. “Till date we have documented more than 350 records of traditional keepers.” There are about 3,500 GB worth of records with MBRC.

MBRC sustains on foreign donors. “We apply to different organisations for funds, such as culture centres and universities,” Sonam Kheng Dorji explained. CSO funding also provided the seed money for the organisation.

Volunteers from Google trained the group twice on how to digitise, catalogue, and film.

Sonam Kheng Dorji said that for office administration, separate funding is sought from donors. Allocated budget for the project is only for research, documentation and archiving.

Besides funding, some of the challenges the organisation faces while documenting such works of art are weather and the shortage of technical staff.

“We have to hire photographers per project and are not able to keep them full time. Some volunteer to be photographers. We have a volunteer photographer, which saves us lot of money,” said Sonam Kheng Dorji.

The organisation aims to revive and recreate musical instruments that have become obsolete with time.

 

“There were musical instruments which were not used for songs like percussion instruments,” he said. The organisation is also working on creating a Bhutanese orchestra. “If you go to any festival today, then you will see Korean imported drums. We want to replace all of these with our drums.”

MBRC trained tour guides as it felt that they are the ones who make the first impression to foreigners.

The organisation also trained about 16 students on how to record, archive, and take photographs. The students were provided with equipment to complete a task when they returned from their breaks.

“The reason we did that is because a tradition keeper might have inhibitions to share their age old customs and practices if someone like me goes to ask. But if her niece or nephew asks the question, then there won’t be any hesitation. He or she would be able to share comfortably. They [young people] would be able to transmit the culture of his or her ancestors; they should know what kind of tradition exists in his or her village,” he added.

The organisation plans to establish a centre where traditional musical instruments and antiques related to performing arts would be exhibited. The centre would serve as a library for people who are interested in learning about Bhutanese music and performing arts. A land has already been identified in Wangsisina for this purpose.

“We would be able to provide whatever music enthusiasts look for,” Sonam Kheng Dorji said.

MBRC’s project is not just limited to music. Recently, MBRC researched and documented how the unique dress code of Merak came into existence.

These customs and traditions were passed mostly through oral tradition.

“We didn’t have scientific methodology in the olden days; only through oral transmission were these customs passed,” said Sonam Kheng Dorji.

Rinchen Zangmo (This article has been edited for the Bhutan Times)

This article first appeared on Kuensel.

 


Related Posts

Patterns of Happiness opens in Thimphu

With 71 paintings by various Bhutanese artists, a competition exhibition named Patterns of Happiness opened at the...

Sep 28, 2017 07:07

Constructive Steps Taken To Mitigate Impact Of Glacial Lake...

Lunana houses four major lakes-Thorthomi, Raphstreng, Luggye and Baytsho. So far, the Thorthomi and Raphstreng lakes are...

Oct 20, 2018 08:58

Discover Drupthob Chagzampa – The Great Iron Bridge Builder Who...

Revered as Drupthob Chagzampa or the ‘Great Iron Bridge Builder’, he was an early and unequalled master of engineering...

Oct 14, 2018 16:33

Carbon Negative Bhutan Strives To Maintain Its Status As The...

The mountainous state absorbs three times more carbon dioxide than it emits, thanks mainly to the lush forests covering...

Oct 12, 2018 17:36

Insight Into UNICEF’s Work In Bhutan Since 1974 – The Results So...

UNICEF’s work in Bhutan began in 1974 to improve the lives of children, youth and women in Bhutan.

Oct 11, 2018 16:56

Bhutan Observes International Day for Older Persons And Aims To...

Bhutan has committed to implementing The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.

Oct 08, 2018 17:23

Latest

News

General Election 2018: DNT To Head New Government In Bhutan

This is Bhutan’s third general election. The primary round of elections was held in September, where four parties contested to make it to...

Oct 19, 2018 18:51

Surgery To Separate Bhutanese Conjoined Twins Postponed

One of the twins' health has declined, revealed late night tests just before surgery on Friday.

Oct 12, 2018 16:27

Features

Constructive Steps Taken To Mitigate Impact Of Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) In Lunana, Bhutan

Lunana houses four major lakes-Thorthomi, Raphstreng, Luggye and Baytsho. So far, the Thorthomi and Raphstreng lakes are two of the 25...

Oct 20, 2018 08:58

Discover Drupthob Chagzampa – The Great Iron Bridge Builder Who Constructed At Least 60 Suspension Bridges In Bhutan And Tibet

Revered as Drupthob Chagzampa or the ‘Great Iron Bridge Builder’, he was an early and unequalled master of engineering skills.

Oct 14, 2018 16:33

Sports

Bhutan's 'Judo Girl' Fighting For Her Sport Back Home

By competing at the Youth Olympic Games Bueno Aires 2018, 16-year-old Yangchen Wangmo is blazing a trail for judo in the small archery-mad...

Oct 10, 2018 12:45

Two Para Athletes To Represent Bhutan At 3rd Asian Para Games (6-13 Oct) In Palembang, Indonesia

Organised by the Asian Paralympic Committee, the Asian Para Games will be held from 6 - 13 October in Jakarta - Palembang, Indonesia.

Oct 06, 2018 13:06

Business

Bhutan’s DHI Business Acceleration Programme Partners With the University of Texas’s IC2 Institute To Draw On Their Expertise

The press release states that DHI has hired the services of IC2 Institute under the University of Texas, USA as a partner for the programme.

Oct 16, 2018 17:08

Bank At Your Doorstep – Bank Of Bhutan Introduces ‘Banking On Wheels’

Bank of Bhutan (BoB) introduced ‘banking on wheels’ on 3 Oct 2018. It travels to various areas in Thimphu on a fixed weekly schedule.

Oct 09, 2018 17:36

Travel

A Run Unlike Any Other, Get Up Close With Charming Locals And The Magic Of Bhutan’s Highlands In The Laya Run

The third edition of the Laya Run will take place on October 23 from Panjothong to Laya.

Oct 18, 2018 17:14

Be Intrigued By The Kunzang Khorlo Graph Found On The Walls Of Monasteries In Bhutan

In Bhutan, the circular or full wheel style of artistic poetry is found on the walls of many temples and dzongs as one enters the premises.

Oct 13, 2018 18:01

Lifestyle

Condé Nast Traveller’s Readers’ Choice Award Voted COMO Uma Punakha In Bhutan As The 3rd Best Hotel In The World

The Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Award is the longest-running and most prestigious recognition of excellence in the travel industry.

Oct 19, 2018 18:59

ShaMa Foundation Reaches Rural Bhutan, Helps To Provide Potable Water To Remote Villages

The program aims to provide access to safe drinking water in remote and challenging geographies in Bhutan.

Oct 15, 2018 20:39

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!