Preserving oral traditions
28 January, 2010 – Not long ago, as darkness fell, children huddled around the fireside to listen to family elders tell fascinating stories that have traveled generations.
Today, this oral tradition is quickly being overwhelmed by images and sounds from television that leaves little to the imagination of the passive viewer.
But it’s still possible to listen to folklore, minus the flickering light of the fireside, on a computer. The Centre for Bhutan Studies (CBS) has posted several audio stories such as Bu Ma Nyen Tashi narrated by Tshewang Dargay of Bumthang and Trepai Cheje narration by Sang Dorji of Mongar on its website which can be downloaded to a computer.
These stories are part of the proceedings of the National Storytelling Conference organised in July last year by CBS that was attended by 20 national folklorists and village storytellers and about 10 foreign scholars.
The national storytelling conference came about from a recommendation made during the First International Conference on Gross National Happiness held in February 2004 by CBS to advocate GNH through the nation’s oral traditions.
Bhutan is largely an oral society where oral communication is still a popular medium practiced and understood by Bhutanese. Oral cultures are considered as a repository and a medium of transmitting morals and values of Bhutan said CBS officials.
“Songs, music, mask dances, festivals, lozey, folktales, etc., are an integral part of Bhutanese culture and identity,” said CBS’s ITC Officer Kuenzang Lhadon. “But due to differences in western education vs. traditional education, mass media vs. traditional media, rigsar music vs. traditional music, modern and western values vs. traditional and Buddhist values, culture undergoes change in form and practice.”
She added that telling our stories and listening to the stories of others enables people to reconnect through this most basic human communication.
The CBS hopes to preserve and promote Bhutan’s rich oral heritage in its folktales through a nationwide event featuring the folktales of Bhutan told live by storytellers from different parts of the country.