Jigme Drukpa

“The first time I heard the dramnyen, it was on the kharshung radio. I was so mesmerized and wanted to be inside that box, singing and playing the dramnyen. I inquired whose voice it was and it was Zhung’s Aup Dopay. Since the revelation, I’ve dreamt of going to Thimphu to learn music from him. In 7th grade, I decided to pursue my dream and ran away from home with two friends towards Thimphu. On route, one of my friends couldn’t continue as his relatives refused to let him go. At Phuentsholing, I met my uncle whom I asked to inform my family of the journey. The journey was extremely sentimental and I ended up playing the flute for the most part of the ride.

Arriving in Thimphu, we had to go look for our relatives and unlike today there were no cell phones to contact someone. I did meet my uncle and thus the search for Aup Dopay began. After a month, I found him and at the beginning, our interactions were arduous as I barely spoke Dzongkha, while Aup knew none of Tsangla. With no dramnyen, I’d borrowed one from Ata Yeshi of the Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA). When I finally got my hands on a dramnyen, I couldn’t even tune it, let alone sing with it. During the lessons, I’d note everything he said, and remember his every hand movement and facial expression. I resumed my education where I participated in sports and cultural shows. I’d accompany Aup Dopey wherever he went and practised.

I was made to observe him extensively so that I can even draw his face now. I’d sit beside him listening to him play the lute, immersing myself completely, studying his physical presence and listening to his vocal intonations. I mimicked everything he did to recreate the experience and understand it better. After a year and a half, I could play a few songs such as Soong Ya, and Cheogi Tsawa. I recorded my first song on a Sony Tape Recorder. In retrospect, I realized the learning process could have been much easier if there were some theories, scriptures, and guides for learning the Dramnyen and traditional music. My uncle bought me a portable cassette player called the Walkman from Japan. With it, I recorded songs on over 100 cassettes.

For weeks, I visited the Ministry of Education requesting to reconsider the new cut-off mark and give me entry into Sherubtse but in vain. It was suggested that I take my plea to the throne. After 6 hours, His Majesty, Jigme Singye Wangchuck finally granted me an audience and I shared my grievances. Later, His Majesty commanded one of the chamberlains to inform MoE to sanction my admission into Sherubtse.

During my stay at Sherubtse, I took care of all the 3 dramnyens that belonged to the institute. I participated in all programmes and met my wife whom I pursued for 7 years. After graduating in 1993, I got the opportunity to study music in Norway and I’d to learn music from the beginning. Returning to Bhutan in 1996, I interned at RAPA as an advisor. Before my return to Norway, I was granted an audience by His Majesty, the fourth king and received soelras. I took a master’s in Ethnomusicology specializing in Himalayan Lutes studying Tibetan, Bhutanese, and various Nepali dramnyens.

Returning, I was commanded to join RAPA by His Majesty where I served for 8 years and 8 months. In 2008, I resigned and contested Bhutan’s first-ever democratic election 2008 but unfortunately lost. After the political stint, I worked with a newspaper firm as a research officer and advisor. Under the command of His Majesty, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck I worked with the Royal Education Council for a year to create Bhutan’s Music Roadmap. Then I started my own music school, Ayang Music School and after 6 years I took a break. I returned to Norway to study Psychotherapy and Music. Now that the pandemic is over, I’m looking forward to re-open my music school.

I have no regrets in life, not even running away from home as I wouldn’t have met Aup Dopay and learned music from him. People always questioned my love for music because of my academic success but I remind them that we must strive for a life that we aspire to have, not for others. If you want to pursue your interest, always strive for excellence with passion and vigor, and never settle for mediocrity.

Regarding the musical number we have prepared for the 115th National Day that fuses my traditional dramnyen with modern musical instruments, I’m very excited. I’ve always been an open and progressive person and enjoy experimenting with traditional music. I hope people will come to see us and the 200-year-old dramnyen that I have with me.”

#HumansofThimphu #ND2022 #NationalDayBhutan2022 #NationalDayofBhutan #Thimphu


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