I love rap music and it is my dream to be a rapper, but my parents are against my idea. They don’t understand music and want me to get a white collar job, have a nice car, and own a building etc. They even pull a face when I just pick up my guitar. I hate office work and am not interested in owning property. Music is my passion. I feel like I’m dying. What can I do?

Suffocating in Thimphu 

Well, suffocating, it is good to live your dreams, but we also sometimes need to be practical. In this respect, you should really consider whether you can make a living in Bhutan as a rapper? You might get some income from the movie industry if your songs are in Dzongkha, but otherwise how will you survive? You need to remember that Bhutan’s population is very small and the number of people who appreciate rap music is even smaller. I’m not saying that you cannot do it, but I want you think things through clearly.

Obviously, there is a huge number of rap fans world-wide, but the number of rappers is also very large. If you want to break into the UK or US market, for example, you will not only have to be exceptionally good but also need to have contacts in the music industry. In India, the popularity of English rap and rock music is probably limited to Mumbai, Bangalore, Siliguri, and Shillong.

I have no right to tell you how to live, but I do want you to think about the situation with your eyes wide open. In reality, life is about compromise. So, yes, we should strive to reach our goals and not give up easily, but, at the same time, we also need to consider the practical aspects of our dreams. You are no longer a child. Think it through yourself. So basically, while I strongly suggest that you continue to compose rap songs, I also recommend that you seriously think about a second option with regard to your career.

This part is addressed to your parents: Life is not only about status and property. In reality, as parents you should encourage your son to explore his world. Having a passion for good literature and appreciating music should be applauded, not frowned upon. Rather than suppressing your son’s interest, encourage him to pursue music and help him to look into other genre as well as rap. Discuss life with him and pass on the wisdom of your ancestors. Aim to give him the foundations that will help him to develop into an all-rounded, caring and confident human being, not an identikit youth who is only suited for the job market and merely interested in reading about others’ lives on Facebook.

These days, there is a tendency to believe that success is determined by the size of our car, the number of shopping trips made to Bangkok, and whether or not we own a building. In reality, there is so much more to the world than material goods and status. Actually, this fanatical quest for material wealth and social standing is like a crazy man seeking water in a mirage. Not only does it fail to bring long-lasting satisfaction, but it actually increases our craving and levels of anxiety.

Of course, music and literature etc are also unreal like a mirage, but by broadening our experiences of life, we place ourselves in a better position to see the world and to make wise decisions. We also learn to discover the magic in small things, such as a poem, a piece of music or the sunlight streaming in the window. And, as these things are always available, our lives are more likely to be characterized by peace and contentment if we know how to appreciate them.

Basically, I strongly suggest that you encourage your son to explore his interest in music. This doesn’t mean that he should neglect his studies or future career but that he should also be allowed to expand his interests beyond text book knowledge. Don’t force him into a life that is defined merely by competition and based on fear, but instead encourage him to explore his world and to develop curiosity and wisdom.

In reality, if you genuinely believe that your son cannot survive in the world as a rapper, at least inspire him to pursue music as a hobby and take a personal interest in his songs. You may even learn to appreciate Eminem yourself – who knows?

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes. Email to for any queries


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