English | Dzongkha Saturday, January 19, 2019

Invaluable role of Music of Bhutan Research Centre

Sonam Pem, Thimphu
May 18, 2018

Archiving and documentation play an invaluable role in preserving the rich cultural heritage of any country. By recording and making available the music, arts, knowledge and traditions, it helps to spread a broader understanding and respect for different cultures.

Similarly, with the hope to promote renewed appreciation and involvement in traditional music, the Music of Bhutan Research Centre (MBRC) has archived over four hundred records of traditional keepers since its establishment in 2012.

The archived video of the song- Daga la Mai laju falls under Daang Rim or the extended vocal melody, which is a famous Zhem or choreographed vocal performance of Khebesa in Dagana.

Sustaining such culture in the face of globalisation would have been an uphill struggle if the centre wasn’t instituted. The MBRC archives musical traditions of the diverse regional, linguistic and ethnic groups in the country.

It also documents the finest living master musicians in performance. The founder of the centre, Sonam Dorji said, “Country like ours should set an example to the world by preserving this vibrant culture, which important for our cultural identity.”

Despite setbacks such as harsh weather conditions, the centre travels to some of the most remote places to document and record videos for archiving. However, like any other civil society organisations, the centre is faced with shortage of funds and technical staff.

“Due to financial issue, I wasn’t able to meet Aum Dorji Om from Lingzhi. When I went to meet her, people told me she passed away three years ago. It was the similar case with Rukibji’s  Zhem Tsheypem,” said the founder, adding: “So unlike other CSOs, ours is different, we have to race against the time.”

To further expand their archiving system, the Music of Bhutan Research Centre plans to build a culture centre at Wangsisina in South Thimphu.

The centre would serve as a library for those interested to learn about Bhutanese music and performing arts. While most cultural traditions in Bhutan have been passed through oral transmission, the research centre hopes to be country’s collective music memory- a shared pool of knowledge and information of music and tradition for all Bhutanese.


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