Recognising tradition keepers’ lifelong contribution to Bhutanese culture through traditional songs and dances, Gangkar Wangdi and Sangay Choden were honored with the Druk Norbu Award in Thimphu on December 23.

Music of Bhutan Research Centre (MBRC) organised the event to appreciate, acknowledge their contribution and to promote and conserve songs that are unique to the country.

Founder of MBRC, Kheng Sonam Dorji, said, “It is a way to showcase identity through traditional songs and dances.”

He said that songs and culture carry themes, values, and aesthetic sensibilities that are important to the Bhutanese society. MBRC recognises individuals who had been keeping traditional songs and dances intact in the society through the Bhutan’s living treasure for culture award.

The 76-year-old Gangkar Wangdi recalled the time when he was called Khala Jamdri while singing a boedra in front of the third Druk Gyalpo.

He said that people should be careful with the lyrics and the melody of songs these days as there are chances of losing the original version of the song. “Otherwise, the quality of voice is really great and commendable.”

Besides composing songs, the recipient served as a Driglam Namzha teacher and as an instructor at Royal Academy of Performing Arts (RAPA).

Sangay Choden had also performed in events and auspicious occasions during the third Druk Gyalpo’s reign. At about 60, she said that she is overwhelmed with the award. “There are many competitions that are coming up these days that keeps traditional songs alive. These are good as youth is also involved and they get to know many folk songs.”

She has served as music teacher in RAPA and education ministry. Sangay Choden started her journey in music when she was selected as one of the dancers in 1971.

Apart from the medal, the recipients were also provided with a cash prize of Nu 30,000 each and certificates.

Traditional songs such as Shamthap Dolap, Chhaepa Phulo, and Daga lamay laju were also performed at the event to celebrate diverse traditional dances from Dagana.

Kheng Sonam Dorji said that this initiative was an attempt to bridge traditional and contemporary performing arts.

About 12 individuals has been awarded the Druk Award so far.

Rinchen Zangmo