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 Daily Bhutan)

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

Buckwheat From Bhutan Gaining Popularity For Its Nutritional And...

Buckwheat flour is often used to make delicious pancakes or noodles in Bhutan.

Oct 23, 2019 21:58

How Bhutan Managed To Maintain 72% Of Its Land Under Forest Cover

This widely acclaimed feat was made possible, kudos to the far-sighted vision of a handful of people in the past.

Oct 22, 2019 21:55

Malaya: Bhutanese Jewelry Line Inspired By The Spirits And...

The brand started in 2016 and the two partners have been regularly releasing new items ever since.

Oct 19, 2019 23:58

Meet Yeshi Choden – Bhutan’s First Women Satellite Engineer, A...

Yeshi Choden, 25, got interested in Space Engineering out of curiosity as the discipline is a completely new course in...

Oct 18, 2019 14:08

Weavers Of The Much Sought After Kharza-Kop Bags From Jangphutse,...

For generations, women in this hamlet in Bhutan have been weaving bags as their main occupation.

Oct 16, 2019 23:28

Latest

News

Bhutan’s GDP Growth Projected By IMF To Be Above Global Average

According to the World Bank, Bhutan's GDP growth is expected to jump to 7.4 percent this fiscal year.

Oct 21, 2019 22:08

Snowman Run – As Important As It Is For Bhutan, The Run Is For The World

The run was envisioned by His Majesty The King after multiple visits to the highlands.

Oct 14, 2019 20:28

Features

Buckwheat From Bhutan Gaining Popularity For Its Nutritional And Medicinal Values

Buckwheat flour is often used to make delicious pancakes or noodles in Bhutan.

Oct 23, 2019 21:58

How Bhutan Managed To Maintain 72% Of Its Land Under Forest Cover

This widely acclaimed feat was made possible, kudos to the far-sighted vision of a handful of people in the past.

Oct 22, 2019 21:55

Sports

Bhutan’s Pelden Wangchuk Wins 10th Edition Of Tour 0f Dragon Mountain Bike Race

This year, the race also saw the highest number of female participants compared to past years.

Sep 10, 2019 01:08

Tour Of The Dragon – Toughest One Day Bike Race Starts On 7 September In Bhutan

It takes sheer toil and stamina for the top riders to complete the 268 km race which finishes at the capital, Thimphu.

Sep 06, 2019 23:58

Business

Cottage & Small Industries Flagship Programme Rolled Out In Bhutan, Set To Create More Jobs

The CSI sector was identified as one the flagship programme in view of its greater socio-economic roles in Bhutan.

Oct 11, 2019 15:38

Bhutan’s Himalayan Food Aims To Produce Healthy Snacks With A Worldwide Reach

Himalayan Food currently produces potato chips, apple chips and banana chips.

Sep 25, 2019 23:58

Travel

7th Jomolhari Mountain Festival Showcases Unique Culture Of The Highlanders

The festival has become an important event where the highlanders get to showcase their unique culture and traditions.

Oct 15, 2019 23:28

Plans In The Pipeline To Set Up More Homestays In Sakteng, Eastern Bhutan

We are hopeful that our homestay business in Sakteng will boom with the increase in the number of tourists."

Oct 12, 2019 12:43

Lifestyle

Launch Of Karen Greenspan’s Footfalls From The Land Of Happiness: A journey Into The Dances Of Bhutan

The book delves into familiar subjects that are what continues to shape Bhutan’s image.

Oct 05, 2019 10:18

Critically Acclaimed Film - Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, Showcases The Magic Of Bhutan’s Highlands

Directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji, this highly acclaimed movie has been accepted for more than 10 international film festivals.

Sep 23, 2019 23:28

Subscribe to our newsletter

Never miss out on new happenings and news stories!

Download Daily Bhutan Mobile App

Connecting with us just got easier!