Beats from the land of the thunder dragon

Jan 22, 2013, 00:46 IST | Surekha S

Through a beautiful rendition of Drangyen, a string instrument from Bhutan, and discussions, master musician Kheng Sonam Dorji will share his knowledge of music and the cultural identities in his home country

Musician Sonam Dorji earned the name of Kheng Sonam Dorji, when he composed the first ever nationally broadcasted song in Khengpa, his native language. He released a string of hit Bhutanese Pop albums, plays several instruments native to Bhutan and has earned global acclaim, with appearances at Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife in Washington DC, and the BT River of Music Festival, with Arun Ghosh for London 2012 Olympic Games.

Musician Sonam Dorji from Bhutan

This Thursday, Dorji will be in Mumbai at an event organised by the Asia Society India Centre and Artisans’, to help people appreciate Bhutanese music and its importance in their culture. “I am looking forward to sharing my experiences in music, especially those that are native to Bhutan. Given the time, I would love to project one of the short documentaries that I have filmed about old-age music and its value within the community,” reveals Dorji, who will demonstrate the Drangyen (a long-necked lute native to Bhutan), at the event. He also plays native instruments like the Chiwang (a two-stringed fiddle made from ox, cow or buffalo horn, covered by goat leather), Yangchen (a trapezoidal-shaped wooden zither) and Lim (a six-holed bamboo flute).

Dorji believes that music has been an essential part of Bhutanese culture and the country’s traditional music forms are integral to work, rituals and celebrations that have made up rural life in this region for centuries. “Tranquil, highly nuanced, and infused with a Buddhist sensibility, the music embodies core Bhutanese aesthetic, spiritual and social values shared across the population, but also reflects startling linguistic and ethnic diversity within,” he explains.

Dorji will also talk of his work at the Music of Bhutan Research Centre, which he founded in 2008 to document, preserve and promote Bhutanese traditional music and Folk dances. “The organisation aims to break new ground by professionally researching and archiving the range of traditional music, and making the materials about Bhutanese music publicly accessible. The mission is ambitious, yet crucial and timely, as Bhutan is in a transitional period; the future of traditional music is uncertain. Like many countries, Bhutan is grappling with issues of development and there is deep concern that traditional music is under threat,” he adds.

On January 24, 6.30 pm;
At Artisans’, 52-56, Dr VB Gandhi Marg, Rhythm House Lane, Kala Ghoda.
Ticket Rs 100,

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