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  • Akiko

Why always western classical music? (Music education in Bhutan)

Bhutan, small Buddhic country is famous as Gross National Happiness. Bhutan opened its door to foreign tourists in 1970s. Since the time, it managed the number and quality of tourists according to "high value, low impact" policy.

I've first know this country over 20 years ago. Ever since it was always one of my goal to research. To keep their high GNH, Bhutanese treat their tradition very important. It is changing with development of internet. People now can access more easily outside of their country.

The most interesting point of Bhutanese Happiness policy is for me, their attitude to their own culture. Pupils, students, officers, all wear their traditional cloth Gho or Kera. For me who wondered why Japanese don't know about their culture (they merely know about kagura for exemple), Bhutan's BNH policy was focus of interest.

14 years ago, I got a chance to try to work over there as music teacher. JICA was recruiting teachers to send several country, including Bhutan. Then I'll be able to research about their culture and their music while working as piano teacher. However, they gave me another post to go to Central America, I finally couldn't go to Bhutan. (Furthermore, I finally didn't take the post.)

A year ago, I just hit to a Japanese TV show in which a Japanese music teacher at Bhutanese international school was presented. In this program, they make short documentary about her half-life, her relationship between her daughter and her, and of course, her activities in Bhutan as music teacher.

I was really doubtful that she arranges Bhutanese traditional song by putting western classical chord and accompanies with piano.

Actually, Bhutan's current situation is very similar to Japanese one in mid 19th century. When first Japan opened its door to western countries, Japanese government decided to teach western classical music at primary and middle school. Until 1970s, moreover, until 2000s, it was not obligatory to teach Japanese traditional music at school. In addition, most Japanese music teachers are classical musician and they don't have neither enough knowledge, nor enough skill to play and teach Japanese traditional music. (It is now obligatory to learn basic skill but we cannot deny that their Japanese music ability it much less than their classical music level.)

The woman in the program, is generation who was trained before Japanese music obligation in school. The program was very good. However, I was wondering if in her way, Bhutanese young generation has Western classical music as their "mother" music. Then, Bhutanese criteria of Bhutanese happiness policy is almost ignored.

People who don't know their own history or own culture cannot love their country. I think people cannot feel any attachment to their society must not to be "happy".

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