‘The struggle against injustice’


I rarely get an opportunity to listen to Bhutanese ‘Krantikari’ songs sung by Bhutanese singers. I must say they are my favorites and I am always looking. Today, we have a burgeoning crop of young and wonderful Bhutanese singers – each one of them is an embodiment of creation; and in some aspects, their creations are a reflection of the social evolution we have come across. We are proud of them all.

I recently got a chance to listen to a CD of songs sung by Manoj Rai. I was delighted as it had been quite a while that I had not heard new songs from Bhutanese artists. I am humbled to opine about something, that I feel unqualified to evaluate, but I could not stop myself at that.

There are six fantastic songs in the CD. Each song is very brilliant, cool and interesting to listen to and is strongly symbolic. They never bore you. They are also very touchy, good in style and tone. “Kulagangri himal le haami lai bolaucha, koili……….” (We are called by Kulagangri range, the birds whistle our tone………). The songs contain well thought out lyrics, straight to the point, and very insightful. Listening to the songs, we tend to surf our past and very often hear sounds of our own voices reverberating in those songs. You can also easily visualize the atrocities in your head and feel some sizzling nostalgia of the past. The lyrics are a testimony to the mind capturing thought process of the composers. Its delightful and descriptive lines allow you to capture the atmosphere and become part of the song as much as the singer. One of the pioneers of Bhutanese music in exile and an accommodative singer, Manoj does not fail to do justice to his composers.

Manoj Rai's 'Bhutani katha-byatha'.

These are not the songs of a loser. They succinctly bring out the rebel in the singer. Click here to listen to a clip of one of his songs. “jaaga na jaaga bhutani, anyaya sahera kam chaina…..”! “Bhutan ma kranti chalecha…….” (Awake Bhutanese, you don’t profit keeping silent in supression……! There is a movement in Bhutan now…..) Manoj’s songs are radical but full of patriotism. I think the songs are moving, warm and inspirational. They offer a reason to believe in the cause even when you are running through troubles of your own. I saw many similarities and areas of resonance.

Manoj’s songs reassuringly remind us of the uphill task ahead of us, in our fight against tyranny. He even warns us about the risk of losing what we have at stake. It helped me uplift myself and revive my belief for the struggle for democracy anywhere. In our mission to tell the world about the injustices we have gone through, probably our singers and their songs will be a potential resource in the future. True political leaders and devoted singers could make a winning combination. “Swodesh hami firna lai aauna pyara daju bhai.!” (To start a homeward move…….. let’s be together kith and kin)

Manoj devotes an entire song paying tribute to the fallen heroes of our movement beginning from Mahasur Chhetri to RK Budathoki. At the end of the song, he also mentions about martyr Man Bahadur Chhetri and a passionate activist of the Sarchhop community, Cheku Dukpa. Manoj dissects southern Bhutanese history and narrates the events in chronological timeline; with such simplicity and placidity that an entire history is revealed into your ears as music. No wonder, this is his ‘core’ song. The song offers glimpses of our society in historical perspective and is an example of the glaring pitfalls of a dysfunctional system that played pranks with the lives of its own citizens.

One of Bhutan’s paradoxes is that, in a compassionate Buddhist nation – power politics affect even those that are not rebelling. The songs portray how suppression remains persistent over time, affecting the life and interests of its ordinary citizens, including even the artists. I had assumed that political rulers can limit only the religious and political liberties of people, but Manoj has shown yet another profound political reality of Bhutan; of how the ambition hardened rulers can even shut down the perpetuation of art and culture. At one point of time, even singing modern Dzongkha songs, was illegal in Bhutan.

The emphasis on the struggle is understandable. In each song, there are some subtle points and some obscure information which leads to the topsy-turvy story that Bhutan is. A meditative listener will easily discover those hidden meanings in the songs.

The quality of recording is not satisfactory and it is understandable. Given the high cost of recording and the absolutely income-free refugee life, quality obviously is the first victim. Manoj however, refused to accept these limitations and worked his way to get the message across. We have to thank the singer for his efforts and persistence.

Manoj’s songs carry a simple message – resolution and courage. It ushers hope amidst despondency. He does a great job of not giving away to the forces of oppression. What follows is a series of exhibitions before one begins to appreciate his work. He is also trying to convey that a change in a singer’s location does not necessarily affect his motivation to work for the cause. His songs quite readily offer valid reasons to keep the seeds of our motivation continuously growing; a message less-frequently conveyed in similar creations. “futera hoina jutera, hami le yekata hunu chha” (Not being fragmented, we ought to stand one).

It is quite unlikely that these songs will enjoy the same popularity as other regular songs, but they do provide sufficient reasons for a general positive review and appreciation. Manoj did a great job of walking into the minds of the oppressed Bhutanese people and singing their hearts out; and it must serve as an anecdote to the rest of our artists. Above all, his songs are a real tribute to the fighters of democracy and human rights in Bhutan; they are also a clarion call to the others to wake up in the struggle against injustice. I would recommend his CD to everyone.


  1. Great job Manojji, your effort( this album) is a source of inspiration to all of us. Is there a way to get a copy of cd for me?
    Great music, great compose and mind blowing voice….

    Keep contributing the music piece…appreciated.


    Tika Acharya.

  2. Congratulation Monoj ji,
    I have read the article above by RP and knew about your album.Hats off to you for your efforts to reveal History through musics.
    Looking forward to hear from the cd.
    Once again CONGRATULATIONS for the all the time and efforts you have dedicated to the music.

  3. Thanks to RP subba sir, for writing view on the Manoj sir’s cd.
    But these days Manoj sir is away from music as I think.
    May be because of this album review Manoj sir will create more
    music for us also take care of his music students in the camps and resettle in different parts of the world.
    manoj sir please please provide me your mail id i want to touch with you.
    binod chhetri
    khudunabari camp

  4. Dear RP sir,
    Pleased to read new topic from you and thanks to bns gays,
    specially keeping the song in the middle as line indecated
    This is called unity likewise everyone go ahead
    we may reach to the goal soon.
    Yes every wheb
    I got a chance to listen manoj sir’s cd in 2004 or2005 i was very young even it was fantastic.
    still when i move alone I my self the sing
    same line
    “ja ga na bhutani……. .” and when I listen the song in news I was surprise,
    Manoj sir did great job my head-off to his job.
    If any source let me get a copy of this cd.
    meera parajuli
    [email protected]

  5. Some of the songs of Manoj Rai from this album were once very common in our refugee communities.Songs are really patriotic and they do touch our sentiment.They have some weightage too. Manoj is mainly interested in singing the songs on patriotism and nationalism .
    Manoj daju,why don’t you come up with such songs again?We love your songs and still want more from you.
    Raghu Osti,

  6. Thank you RP dai for bringing the Music review of Manojji’s album. I liked the songs and looking forward to find a cd so that we all can listen them. I know manojji can do it and looking forward to see new albums in the days to come.
    I think there should be an institution ( if not already created) so that it can take care of the emerging artist in our community.
    I think the literary community will take care of the literatures in communities similarly, there should be somebody who takes care of the musical aspects of the Bhutanese residing in the core countries.

    My congrats to Manojji for pioneering and spearheading the musical aspects of the diaspora.
    DB Adhikari
    Arizona, US

  7. Congratulation Manoj ji, you have set a history through literary leap. You have achieved one goal. Your awakening songs/lyrics shall definitely reach the hearts of all justice seeker Bhutanese in exile and inside Bhutan.
    Manoj ji, the release of your present album should not be the dead end. You know well that you have your obligation toward your community/country and embarking on this reality you also must realize that you have other goal to conquer-to consolidate scattered Bhutanese literati and artists in diaspora and institutionalize the literary work and the work of art.
    Well done Manoj!!!

  8. hi friends,
    nice to read album rewiew, reviewed by RP dai. The bhutanese people from young to elder must listen the CD to know the fct of bhutanese democratic movement.
    Congratulation Manojji.
    Also thanks to BNS for publishing such article
    Thank you

  9. The music CD by Monoj Rai is really a heart-touching. Perhaps, it reveals the Bhutan’s historical and political moments between two eras. Despite the tragic and precarious situation in the camp, Monoj worked restlessly to collect information into lyrical form and later developed into the Music CD. Even the cover picture of CD reflects a pile of historical and sentimental emotion that one never takes off from its mind. I believe this small piece of great living pages of Monoj’s experiences becomes one of the key references to our existing generations who were, are and will be resettled around the globe. I really appreciate the presentation of Mr. R P Subba, for technical interpretation and translation that makes the new listeners understand Rai-a message of Mother and the Motherland is unforgettable.

  10. Bravo! R.P. sir. Manoj Rai,as per my analysis is one of the hidden treasures of musical assets amongst Bhutanese in diaspora.Obviously,this is your dexterous performance to explore,survey and extract this worthy musical emblem from the under-grounded surface to the global Bhutanese community.This inturn enhances us to recall an artist who was almost forgotten yesterday.Thus, the effort you have exercised to highlight the hidden is highly appreciable. Thanks a lot.

    Gurung Hem Kumar.

  11. Thank u Nil and Raghu Osti Bhais for letting me know about the online institution for the Bhutanese Musicians residing in abroad. I think this will lead our artists to the right direction and will go a long way in this field.
    Wishing to see more musics and fun in the diaspora.

    Happy Happy New Year 2011 for all the BNS guys and the readers.
    DB Adhikari
    Arizona, US

  12. Well done Mr. RP Subba, for helping to unveiling the CD of Mr. Monoj. The music is great piece and really touch the sentiments of every Bhutanese. But, I feel there are similarities in many ways to the moasit musics of Nepal. The feeling that generates after hearing the music is great one, it took me to Bhutan. Alas! I should have heard this piece when I was in camp 10 years ago. I hope to hear more in near future. Monoj where ever you are, pls keep your effort and keep stealing the hearts of people with your creativity. Good luck.

  13. I didn’t get chance to listen to the songs. Is it the revolutionary, patroitic, legendary, romantic, classic or longing type of songs? Somewhere writer used word radical but didnot elaborate and changed to patroitic theme. May be it is hard to demarcate the line of control.
    Another thing, is he the writer, musician and singer in the album? If so he needs special praise and honor. Can we also know some introduction of this musician/singer? And ofcourse we know the name. I don’t think this will be personal related thing as he made the album public.
    Last but not the least, thanks for the writer of this article for pushing ahead/ advertising this cd. We lack the market and our handful of circles which still limits as per age needs space to mention. And Raijee must acknowledge the writer. Let’s see how he will react?
    Good work, keep it up.

  14. RP Bhai,

    Thank you for appreciating and documenting the creative work of an artist. Unless we make efforts to talk about them they are left behind. It is a good way to tell the story and artists are great in projecting the social injustice and sattire in the form of either songs or drama and it captures the audienace’s interest much more easily. It touches people’s hearts much more effectively.

    Literary and artistic works are important instruments of social and community struggle and I would like to congratulate Manoj for this good work. Keep up the spirit and get more Bhutanese in the Diaspora and inside interested in your work, especially the younger generations. I hope to listen to you songs.


  15. The song sang by you and friends regarding malty ethnicity and linguistic in Bhutan , is a precious guidance to our community . Unfortunately , ( we) You and your friends do not have appropriate national forume to promote and preserve the genius ( PRTIBHA ) which you(we) all have , is a biggest blow to the community as whole . Your , organizing capacity of uniting society also is an ideal inspiration , nevertheless if , you had in the mother land . You are well aware if Ammar Gurung and{Ravindara Shrma ? who had Sang the song Juni juni…lai … Meri uuuni lai ) if were not in Nepal their melodies were buried some where in Darjeeling district or at Siliguri in the Bangali Ghari . Let above inner heart comments be instrument to inspire every Bhutanese to not derailed from the duty of establishing human right and real democracy in Bhutan which is the only one option to achieve the biggest stage to all artist intelligent and Talents .

    Hari P Adhikari relocated in California

  16. hi, manoj ji u did really good job.thanks for narrating the real history of nepali speaking bhutanese through the means of music,with is the real effective and pretty new way of exposing our reality.thanks for RP sir for highlighting these hidden talent of manoj rai throught the articles …………