Aspiring youth pop artists struggle to make it big

Winter in Thimphu is chilly and most youth would prefer to stay in bed the whole day.

Not in the case of Kinga Phuntsho and his team. The 20-year-old Music Television (MTV ) cinematographer is a media student from Sherubtse College, and is often seen around Coronation Park with his DSLR camera and a tripod.

He is accompanied by Chimi Wangchuk, a 21-year-old MTV director and a singer also studying media in Sherubtse College. They shoot and direct music videos in various places in Thimphu and Paro.

Kinga Phuntsho has filmed three MTVs this winter. Fuelled by passion for his hobby, Kinga Phuntsho said: “Although I am interested in shooting videos, it is very challenging since we do not get sponsors. I actually rented the camera and tripod.”

Meanwhile, Chimi Wangchuk said that they have to personally manage the traveling expenses most of the time. Sometimes, they do get sponsors like Uma Resort in Paro which provides lunch and place for shooting.

Currently, Kinga Phuntsho and Chimi Wangchuk is shooting a music video with the band O’ Strangers. One of the band’s singers, Sonam Rinchen, said that they hardly earn from their music unless it is a hit. “Our earnings basically come from performing in people’s weddings and at the Mojo Park in Thimphu and Park 76.Cafe & Bistro in Paro.”

The band earns around Nu 6,000-8,000 per show performing at such places.

A 22-year old song composer and MTV scriptwriter, Sonam Jurme who studies at the Royal Thimphu College who is inspired by the western songs said that he writes songs mostly about youth and women which attract large audience. He added that he earns mostly when his lyrics are bought.

Bhutanese music has come a long way from Zhungdra, Boedra and Rigsar. In present times, pop-music is dominated by Bhutanese youth.

The pop music industry in Bhutan is still growing. Youth pursue their passion in this field even though they face challenges such as lack of support and proper platform in the country to showcase their talent. A few music studios in the country help youth by providing proper platforms to record and release their songs.

Zhegyel Studio located in Changzamtok in Thimphu has 36 members. The owner, Thinley Namgay, said that he provides special rates for the members and the students. He further added that pop music is needed in Bhutan as long as it gives a Bhutanese feel. Most youth say that although pop music in Bhutan has developed, they lack support from the authorities. Chimi Wangchuk said that they hope that the government would at least provide them with platforms like Mojo Park and music awards so that they can earn by pursuing music as a career.

A journalist, actor, musician and radio jockey at Radio valley, Kunga Tenzin Dorji said that the creative industry in Bhutan needs a large market in order to sustain. “The music industry in Bhutan is not able to sustain because of the small population and the small size of economy.”

He added that artists can survive in the music industry only if they are able to do very well otherwise small-time artists can pursue music as a hobby while earning through other jobs.

Kunga Tenzin Dorji said that the Bhutanese government should encourage arts and facilitate the growth of creative arts because that is where the life blood of culture springs from. He further said that Bhutanese artists must be responsible enough to find their own market. “Eventually, no matter what the circumstances, whether there is government support or not, any person shall be able to succeed if he or she is focused and driven enough,” he said.

Bhutanese pop music industry is on rise lately with the youth using social media to release their music videos. YouTube and Facebook are the most popular social media platforms used by youth to promote their videos although earnings through them are nil.

Pema Choki from Thimphu