The history of Nepali music in the context of Bhutan has nowhere been precisely found documented in the book of history or literature. But as far as the contemporary music is concerned & given the informal researches done by a few elite people in the Nepali literary circle of the Bhutanese community in diaspora, which has so far come only in the form of a piece of writings, the history of practice of contemporary Nepali music among the Nepali speaking people of Bhutan does not go long beyond the early ’80s.
In this regard, Mr. Pratap Subba is believed to have been the pioneer of modern music in the context of Nepali music in Bhutan. This speculative determination is merely based on the fact that he is known to be the first person from the music circle who has unveiled his singing potential through his debut album entitled “Bandhan Ko Chino”, which became a wildfire in the late ’80s and early ’90s. However, this conclusion should not leave any misconceptions that there had not been any singers or composers prior to him. Practically, it is a fact that there had certainly been many hidden singers and composers in the society prior to Mr. Subba whose songs had never been found recorded. Consequently, their creations and singing ability went unnoticed in society. Convincingly, the lack of access to the only state-run media known as Bhutan Broadcasting Service (BSS), and the financial limitations could have been the two relevant explanations of restraints.
However, after the forceful eviction of the innocent people from Bhutan in the early 1990s and the establishment of the Bhutanese refugee camps in eastern Nepal administered by UNHCR, many youths of the community had directly been exposed to and influenced by Nepali music. Eventually, the increasing passion for Nepali music in the camps became a strong medium to repair the broken hearts of the refugees. For some, the music had become a pretext to stay away from the trauma of the blatant expulsion from their homeland. Meanwhile, the people in the camps began to realize that music was one of the strong means of expression. At times, it had also become one of the powerful means to expose the atrocities and intimidation of the despotic regime of Bhutan. The subsequent release of revolutionary music albums under different titles such as Mukti, Ragat Ko Nisani, Bhutani Chitkar Samuyik, Krandan, Bhutani Katha Betha, and Bidroha ka Jhilka was crystal-clear evidence of realization of the power of music to expose the enemy and fight against gross injustice.
And with the beginning of the 21stcentury, there was a significant paradigm shift in the trend of Nepali music in the Bhutanese community in exile. Today, the youths have picked up all genres of music from folks and classical to rocks and reggae. Today, some of the Bhutanese singers in the diaspora have reached beyond borders and have become established names in the Nepali music industry.
In spite of this steadfast growth, there had always been a concern among some of the youths with musical know-how. Initially, the idea of forming a group germinated in the minds of five people in the USA. Eventually, this group of five enthusiastic people reached out to 22 like-minded youths passionate about moving forward.
And after months of spontaneous brainstorming among the 22 core members, the idea of establishing a common platform for singers, lyricists & musicians originated. Consequently, a conference was called in Cincinnati, OH in order to disseminate the mission and vision of the core group. In fact, the Cincinnati Conference of June 2017, which was well attended by over 70 singers, musicians & lyricist of our community, was the culmination of months of sustained endeavors desired to work effectively towards this direction. The Ohio conference has officially endorsed their ideas and given this core group of initiators a clear mandate to create an umbrella organization for singers, lyricists, and musicians of Bhutanese Americans. Subsequently, a seven-member ad hoc committee was formed and entrusted the committee with the responsibilities of registering the organization and drafting bylaws and other essential paper works to legitimize the functioning of the organization. The same conference coined the official name of the organization as Bhutanese American Music Association (BAMA).
Do you want your creations archived?
BAMA is the first organization that officially archives the creations of Nepali Music of Bhutanese community around the world, which may serve as a resource for future references.