Resettled Bhutanese Musicians Play On

Singer Pratap Ubba

By Ganesh Gurung

Music is the universal language for expressing an emotion through melodies and composition. It is inevitable part of our life which helps identify our country and culture. It has the magical tones to soothe every living creature of this world. Resettled Bhutanese are also deeply swayed by music. They have their own high and low notes composed in their own taste and styles.

When Bhutanese people were resettled to different part of the world from refugee camps in Nepal, some Bhutanese refugees brought their musical talents along with them. Some well-known artists are still continuing their musical journey here in the different states of America, which is one of the inspiring reasons for the rise of countless Bhutanese musical bands, singers, composers and lyricists in the resettled Bhutanese Diaspora.

Musician Suraj Rana.

But differences in language have definitely limited the number of listeners of Bhutanese musicians. Despite these challenges, Bhutanese music has never stopped resonating in the hearts of thousands of fans. Unlike other songs, Bhutanese songs are also filled with the melodious notes of love and war and sad notes of disloyalty, culture, and politics.

Pratap Subba, 61, the first legendary singer and composer, is originally from Lopsibotay, Goseling Gewog, Chirang, Bhutan. He has been resettled to Forth Worth, Texas, and has been very active in music.

“To address the problem of uncertainty seen in the Bhutanese Music industry, it is very important to jointly establish a global Bhutanese musical platform to ensure the musicians’ arduous works be recognized,” said Subba.     

The Bhutanese bands “Flamingo, Druk Fusion” from Akron, Ohio, “Accenter” from Minnesota, “Rhythm” from Buffalo, and many other musical groups have been contributing to their communities through their musical performances. Many resettled Bhutanese youth and adults in America have been contributing their time, money and effort in music selflessly, which is indeed a splendid work to be acknowledged, but their efforts are often limited to getting likes and few good compliments on Facebook and YouTube. This is the saddest part of the history of Bhutanese music.

Singer Amber Subba

“Why?” is the first question that every resettled Bhutanese is obligated to find an answer for. Is this all the Bhutanese singers and musicians have been investing their time, effort and money for? When different Bhutanese Musicians, singers, composers, lyricists, and other well-wishers were asked this question, their answer was a big “NO.”

“HARMONY-the unplugged” is one such musical group formed by the resettled Bhutanese youth of Worcester with the objective of inspiring other youth, engaging them in creative work through music and amplifying their musical talents around the globe. It performs music of all genres, including rock, blues, country, and folk in Nepali, Hindi, and English. They believe that their hard work and effort will inspire many youths to develop and sharpen their hidden musical talents with great enthusiasm. Their endeavor might be one of the thousands of efforts to ensure the bright future of the resettled Bhutanese music legacy.  There are many other similar musical group contributing to their youths and the community

Singer Jeewan Gurung.

“Acknowledgement of Bhutanese music is inevitable, but there are no such platforms; it needs the effort of all the Bhutanese musicians to work together to find the feasible way to set up such platform,” said Jeewan Gurung, 38, a legendary Bhutanese singer from Worcester, MA.

Language barriers have also limited the audience for Bhutanese music, another versatile Bhutanese singer/composer, Suraj Rana, 25, from Worcester, MA, added.

“Bhutanese music has limited listeners due to language difference comparing to American mainstream society,” Rana said. “Therefore, the future of the Bhutanese music industry is circumscribed within the Bhutanese community only.”  

Certainly, music played by resettled Bhutanese youth is only fully accessible to those who speak and understand the Nepali language. The limited listeners are not due to a lack of good artists, composers and singers but to this language gap. But having a limited audience has never been a problem for the energetic resettled Bhutanese composers, singers and lyricists. Instead, countless resettled Bhutanese music-lovers seem to be jumping into it even after knowing this fact.

“The doors of opportunity to widen our musical talent are closed due to the lack of platforms where Bhutanese music is acknowledged. It is also important to prioritize quality rather than quantity of the Bhutanese Music for the professional growth,” said Amber Subba, 37, another versatile singer, composer and lyricist from Akron, Ohio.

Despite all these obstacles, nothing seems to stop the rise and creation of Bhutanese music. Each day or each week, the walls of Facebook and YouTube are seen updated with Bhutanese contemporary music with soulful lyrics, captured professionally in music videos. It is believed that the selfless and tireless efforts contributed by all the talented Bhutanese musicians, singers, composers, lyricists will one day be justified and acknowledged with merit.

As the writer Elbert Hubbard put it, “The best preparation for decent work tomorrow is to do good work today.”

1 Comment

  1. Ganesh Gurung, Thank you for writing this article. I had no idea there are Bhutanese musicians in Worcester, Massachusetts. I recently returned from a trip to South India, where I met Buddhist monks and nuns. Some of the monks and nuns were from Bhutan. I appreciate hearing stories about resettled populations from Bhutan and Tibet…Carol Chester

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