Tradition: It was a different time altogether. Fifty-five-year-old Aum Tshewang Lham, Bhutan’s veteran singer, reflects with deep sense of loss.
Tshewang Lham was a little girl from Tshangkha in Trongsa. She was five and herding cattle when she found her love – singing.
The mother of three, Tshewang Lham, started singing almost professionally from the age of 12. And her passion for singing grew with age.
“I find solace in singing. This is what I would have pursued had I been given a chance in the past,” Tshewang Lham said.
Namgay Jigs, a popular rigsar singer has brought together three eminent Zhungdra singers for a programme to celebrate and pay tribute to mothers.
‘Revealling the Pride of Beloved Mothers of Bhutan’ is a programme that allows interested mothers to showcase their singing talents. Namgay Jigs said that the programme is a tribute to all the mothers for all the sacrifices and hardships they went through while bringing up their family.
Coming to Thimphu and performing live for the first time was a nerve-racking experience for Tshewang and her two friends – sixty-year-old Tashi Wangmo and Kezang Dema, 56.
“I dint think that singing would be this difficult, especially singing rigsar songs was the most difficult experience for me,” said Tshewang Lham.
Tshewang Lham finds pride in saying that she sang at the royal programmes. She did so when His Majesty The King and Druk Gyaltsuen visited her village a few years ago.
“Their majesty said that I have a good voice and they liked the song I sang for them,” said Tshewang Lham. “Their Majesties gave me some cash as a token of appreciation. I still haven’t used them. These are treasures that I will cherish all my life.”
Tshewang Lham has been waiting for a chance to showcase her signing talent to audience bigger than what she gets in her village. The chance came to her when the auditions for a new singing contest for mothers reached Trongsa.
Without any second thoughts, Tshewang Lham got herself registered. Along with her three other women from Trongsa came to Thimphu for the bigger audition –top 30.
Tshewang Lham and one of her friends made it to the next level. Two of the friends weren’t lucky enough.
There is a general observation that the people from Trongsa have a pleasant and beautiful voice. Tshewang agrees.
“Many of my friends and neighbours have very good voice. But because of the plantation season, most of them couldn’t make to the audition,” said Tshewang.
Rigsar is a new form of singing. For Tshewang and her friends, to synchronise and time with the instruments is the main obstacle in the contest.
“Rigsar songs are much easier to sing once we get the hang of the timing compared with zhungdra and boedra. The lyrics are much simpler and easier to understand and remember,” said Tshewang.
The nation had its eyes glued to the television screens when Tshewang Lham, Tashi Wangmo and Kezang Dema, sang for the first time live.
But behind the scene, the three women are going through a tough time catching up with the beat of rigsar songs. Tshewang Lham said that they don’t have a proper trainer to guide them in learning the new form of songs.
“It would be easier if we are given a trainer to teach us because we’ve to compete with the younger groups who are well versed in the genre,” said Tshewang Lham.
However, Namgay Jigs, said that the women were given a grooming session on the basics of all the genres. “It is not possible to make someone learn rigsar within two weeks. The main problem for beginners learning rigsar is the timing which we can teach.”
For Tshewang Lham, singing a zhungdra or a boedra comes naturally. She has written a few boedras herself, which she intends to sing at the show if she manages to go further through the competition.
“I’ve written songs for Their Majesties and on Zhabdrung, which I would like to perform if I stay in the competition,” said Tshewang Lham.
Tshewang Lham wants to learn everything she can from this opportunity.
“Winning is important, but I won’t be disappointed even if I don’t win. I want to learn as much as possible from the people. I also want to share some knowledge that I have about traditional songs,” said Tshewang.
She head on stage for a practice and a special picture session.