Tshewang Loday from Kangpara in Trashigang has music in his blood. This 35-year-old managing director of Khuju Luyang, a private traditional dance troupe, started his love affair with art while he was a Class II student by dancing in the school ground, playing flute for friends and strumming the guitar in the lone classroom corridors.
In 1994, as a high school student, he came to know about Tashi Nyencha in Thimphu, started by Aku Tongme, the composer of Bhutan’s national anthem. In that winter, he hitched a bus to Thimphu to learn a traditional Bhutanese music.
For the next two years he spent his vacations learning traditional instruments and mask dances under the guidance of his mentors, Ata Yeshey and Aku Tongme.
Later in 1996, after completing class XII, he joined the Royal Institute of Management (RIM). He was happy to be in Thimphu full time. He worked part time with Tashi Nyencha being paid Nu 1,000 a month.
After completing his course from RIM, he was posted with the then Tourism Authority of Bhutan while he continued his part time work at Tashi Nyencha. At that time he went twice to Japan to perform, in 1998 and 2000.
While working in tourism, Tshewang Loday was struck with the idea of starting a traditional dance firm. “I formed a group of eight people, four men and four women,” said Tshewang Loday who now works as an accountant with the Royal Bhutan Army.The troupe was named Khuju Luyang, meaning the song of the nightingale. Then there was no looking back. His group won the national dance and music competition in 2006 and was one of the coronation silver medalists for the preservation of culture and tradition.
The troupe, which began with an investment of around Nu 400,000, has participated in several international folk festivals in Netherlands, Japan, Taiwan, Estonia and India in the past five and a half years. Khuju Luyang mainly survives on business from the tourism sector and the troupe charges tourists Nu 5,000 for an hour’s performance.
“We charge Nu 12,000 a day for local performances but now because of competition the rate has gone down to 8,500,” he said.
At present, Khuju Luyang, one of the biggest private troupes, has 20 performers who can stage both dance and music. The troupe provides separate hostel facilities for the female performers, who are mostly Class X or XII dropouts.
But Tshewang Loday’s dreams don’t end with the troupe. He is planning to take traditional music and dance to the schools aiming to introduce local culture to children.