The influx of western music and rapid development, which has led to the decline and disregard of traditional music especially among the younger generation, is a concern for Music of Bhutan Research Centre (MBRC).

To preserve and promote traditional songs in Dzongkha among children, the centre launched a children’s music book on December 1 in Thimphu.

A press release from the centre states that rich lists of Dzongkha songs were on the verge of diminishing, especially for the upcoming generation, due to the increase of international entertainment mediums.

“The project aims to bring the attention and interests of younger people to our prominent songs in national dialect. It will also allow us to introduce Bhutan’s children music globally in the form of audio CDs and songbooks, as they will be made accessible to the international community,” the press release states.

The book Aku Tongmi: A song for Bhutan is also a tribute to the elderly who kept Bhutanese music and dance alive, and to all children who will carry these traditions into the future.

Media spokesperson Tandin Wangchuk said the traditional songs of Bhutan today remain neglected. Some traditional songs are only heard in most remote communities and among the elderly in the country.

Founder and executive director of the centre, Sonam Dorji said the preservation and promotion of traditional music and songs were important considering the location, development and technology of the country.

“We need to protect our age old traditional music while also focusing on development. These are our wealth and legacy,” he said.  “Most schools in the country have not taken in traditional music and culture in the curricula or as a major school activity.”

The children’s music book project initiated in 2014 is dedicated to Aku Tongmi, the melody composer of the national anthem during the first visit of Indian Prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1958, according to MBRC.

Aku Tongmi was also a lead singer and dancer in the court of the second king and a highly trusted personal attendant to His Majesty and the first colonel in the Royal Bhutan Army.

The book has an illustration of Aku Tongmi sitting near the second king performing his duty of telling jokes and stories to entertain the king.

The project took four years to complete and two writers from the United States were involved. Jane Hancock and Janet Herman said that the loss of traditional Bhutanese music would be a huge loss to Bhutan and the world.

“Traditional music has huge significance to the country. It is the heart of your culture and it reflects the values of your culture and traditions,” Janet Herman.

The songbook and the CD will be distributed to all primary school in the country and later in training institutions.