Friday, December 2, 2011

Part 2: Buddhism and Modern Life in Bhutan

The guys in the band are in black, with shaggy hair, and attitudes. They do a sound check in their rehearsal room, and then let it rip.

Guitars shriek through a familiar opening, and then move into a hyper-paced riff on the Pachelbel Canon. This might not be the usual punk rock fare – but then, not all self-proclaimed punk rockers are polite, well-spoken Bhutanese college students.

“Most of our audience is not into hard music, like what we like to play,” says 19-year-old guitarist Ughyen Phuntso, a communications major. “So mostly, we end up playing in my garage.”

Or they play here, at the Youth Development Fund’s youth center in Thimpu, where rehearsal space and instruments are offered free, as an attempt to keep young people off the streets and out of trouble.

“We had noticed there were very few places where the youths could engage productively,” says Dorji Ohm, the center’s program director. “They’d go to the movies or to the bars. In fact, we did a survey and found 500 bars and one library, which was shocking.”

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so shocking in many places, but Bhutan is experiencing growing pains. It has long been a mostly rural, deeply Buddhist, largely isolated mountain kingdom. But in the dozen years since it decided to modernize, and opened up to television, internet and other outside influences, cities have grown and, some Bhutanese fear, mores have changed...

Read the full story from PRI

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