Jigmi Wangdi

THIMPHU — The recent surge of mega festivals in Thimphu has sparked agitation among the entertainment fraternity in the capital, particularly among karaoke bars and discotheques.

In response to their concerns, the Bhutan Karaoke and Live Music Association (BKLA) submitted a formal letter on July 12 to the Thromde’s Entertainment Licensing Committee (ELC) seeking clarity on the procedures and regulations governing the issuance of permits for such events.

The BKLA expressed their belief that while the entertainment sector benefits from approved business licences subjected to strict vetting and verification by the ELC, mega festival event permits appear to be granted hastily without comprehensive scrutiny, often in a matter of days.

“While we support the idea of providing a platform for artists and musicians to showcase their talents,” stated the BKLA, “it must be done within an environment that adheres to the rules and regulations set forth by the ELC.”

Of particular concern to the association is the disparity in operating hours. Mega festivals are allowed to run until 3 am on weekdays, while karaoke bars and discotheques must close by 12 am.

The BKLA proposed a compromise, suggesting that mega events be permitted until 10 pm to ensure a level playing field for all stakeholders, including restaurants, bars, and other entertainment outlets.

The Film Association of Bhutan (FAB) also organised a music festival from June 30 to July 2 as a fundraising initiative.

According to the Association’s Executive Director, Tashi Dhendhup, since FAB is a Civil Society Organisation (CSO), they required approval from the CSO Authority before submitting a proposal to Thromde for the event.

Tashi Dhendhup emphasised that such events were crucial in supporting the creative industry and raising funds for the organization, enabling them to further strengthen their Association.

Meanwhile, Thimphu witnessed another mega festival from July 5 to July 8, which was also approved by Thromde. The event’s organiser stated that he had followed due procedure by submitting a proposal to Thromde with all the required documents, including environment clearance and fees.

He admitted to being unaware of some of the regulations in place and defended the timing of the event, claiming it was consistent with past festivals. According to him, these events promote local artists and tourism, generating significant public interest due to their infrequent occurrence.

The Entertainment Licensing Committee, chaired by the thrompon, approved both events, citing the unique opportunities they provide for local artists and musicians to showcase their talents.

Thrompon emphasised that such events were not held daily, unlike karaoke bars and discotheques, and argued that the distinction warranted different considerations.

Organisers of these events paid a fee of Nu 10,000 to the ELC, along with an additional Nu 30,000 per day as a security deposit and another Nu 30,000 for the space at Changlimithang parking daily.

As the debate over mega festivals continues, the entertainment fraternity anxiously awaits a resolution that addresses their concerns while ensuring a vibrant and balanced cultural landscape in Thimphu.