Main story: In a fledgling music industry where singers and musicians can hardly make music as a career, Kezang Dorji has achieved something no other singer has ever dreamt of before.
The 27-year-old rapper had toured the country, probably the first music tour held by a young singer, connecting with his audience and fans.
Known as the Kuzuzangpo Tour, Kezang Dorji started the tour from September 17 this year and hosted it in 12 venues in nine different dzongkhags, which were mostly schools and colleges. The last show of the tour was housed in a club in Thimphu on October 22.
I always dreamt of touring the country as a Bhutanese rapper. I spent a long time working on it. I followed my dream and justified the time I spent so far on music with this tour, Kezang Dorji said.
“I also wanted my tour to be a pilot test for other accomplished singers that have contributed a lot to the music industry in Bhutan. If my tour succeeded or failed, it will be a lesson for us all,” Kezang Dorji said.
The tour was also a step towards achieving a stronger and more independent Bhutanese music industry, Kezang Dorji said.
“The music industry in Bhutan is too dependent on the film industry. A singer or a musician is considered successful if only he or she gets a break in the movie industry. There are also more avenues where a singer can make a mark today,” Kezang Dorji said citing examples of using social networks to gain recognition and making an independent music and also turning into it as a career.
M-Studio is bringing independent music and that’s what I am doing. I invest my resources and time in recording and making videos although I don’t make money out of it, Kezang Dorji said.
“It is difficult to make a living out of music in Bhutan unless one is exceptionally good. We do earn a little through shows but not all event organisers pay the singers. Despite that, I went ahead with the tour and I’m humbled by the response from the audience,” he said.
While on tour, Kezang also donated storybooks to schools and children.
The shows were held between 90 minutes to two hours. The most requested song was the theme song of the tour Kuzuzangpo and Gachibey where the audience sang every word with him.
“I saw my audience on a rollercoaster ride of emotions during the show. Some songs had them break down in tears and the next would make them smile. Some songs made them dance and wave their hands in the air while some listened to it seriously,” Kezang Dorji said. “I was surprised to see children and young boys rapping to every word with me. It was an amazing experience.”
However, Kezang faced numerous challenges before he embarked on his tour.
I had limited time for both preparation and the tour since I am not a full time musician. I have a job, which I love a lot. I get a certain number of days leave in a year. So, I had to avail that and forego my vacation plans, Kezang Dorji said.
“Next were the funds. I was dependant on my sponsors but I also managed to get by with the expenses during the tour. I did not have a tour bus so I drove my car for about a month. I had to travel through the Indian border at times as well. Since the tour was the first of its kind I was a bit nervous about how it would be received by the audience,” Kezang Dorji said.
Despite such setbacks, Kezang Dorji thanked his supporters and friends that still believed in his music.
It was in the ninth grade when Kezang Dorji fell in love with the rap songs performed by Eminem. Gradually he started discovering other rappers and singers, and started composing rap songs of his own.
As a young boy that was raised by a single parent, Kezang Dorji experienced harsh realities of life and saw others going through similar struggles.
I was always motivated to bring a change in the society and through my songs I was able to reach a wider audience, Kezang Dorji said.
“I talk about my life, social issues related to youth and how to rise above these difficulties in my songs. Maybe these are reasons why many young people feel connected to my songs and also a reason for my tour to be a successful one,” Kezang Dorji said.
Today, after the success of the tour and his never-ending passion for music, Kezang attributes his life as his greatest inspiration for his songs.
“If one analyses my songs, one will see that most of my songs have almost the same themes such as never giving up in life, rising above difficulties, making a difference and cherishing one’s life. I keep saying the same thing but in different ways,” he said.
The rapper is not done for now. Kezang Dorji promises with many such events in the future hoping that other singers like him will also initiate such events.