Songs and Traditions from Laya

In 1999 and 2000, staff of the Jigme Dorji National Park spent 6 months working alongside the yak herding community in Laya. The main outcome was an Integrated Conservation and Development Plan for Laya geog, prepared jointly with the local people.

The following recordings were made during this time. They cover some of the most important religious and cultural events in the Laya calendar as well as songs that accompany the deceptively simple line and circle dances. Others songs would be sung by individuals or groups when harvesting barley or tending yaks. To give an origin to the songs would be misleading since most of them have been travelling between Laya, western Bhutan and Tibet for many years.

The songs were recorded by Roy Cameron and edited by Neten Dorji of the Bhutan Broadcasting Service. With thanks to the people of Laya whose spirit and humour we have tried to convey

Please send us a short email to say whether this service is of interest and utility to you.

Track # Title Time Description
01Chhu mo Ding sho3.54Voice: Damchoe of Tongra village
Nearby where the rushing water flows there will be cute fish/ And just as the flowers are loved by the bees/ And as the snow falls on the mountain/ We are the same/ Just as boys love the girls.
02Fagi Pangsho Den mi nang na3.20Voice: Lhamo of Lubcha village
Far away from here there is a flower blooming/ But I may not go and pluck this flower/ Whoever can pluck this flower please give it to the one I love/ Or offer it to the gods/ My dear love please do not go far away/ But if you must go then be faithful to me.
03Phari yo1.15Voice: Passang Dorji of Lubcha village
There are numerous flowers up on the hillside/ But only the red one brings pleasure to his eyes/ There are numerous girls in the flower garden/ But only the girl he loves can bring him pleasure.
04Tari yo Shoku ya la ja2.56Voice: Lhamo of Lubcha village
The place of Tibet is the glorious home for Tibetans/ The Tibetan people want to sing about the great Dalai Lama.
05Omlea Sang re la4.23Voice: Damchoe of Tongra village
A religious song about rebirth. Damchoe says he often sang this as a boy when yak herding.It is best to be reborn as a human in a very religious place/ If reborn as a deer, then may it be where there are no predators/ If reborn as a fish, then may it be in a big ocean/ If reborn as a son, then may it be on a mother’s lap
06Nga zo ja lu do ma num ngyong3.20Voices: Lhamo and Passang Dorji of Lubcha village
Though I have never been to India/ I know the culture and traditions of India/ In India they always wear shoes/ Though I have never been to Tibet/ In Tibet they lock their doors/ Though I have never been to Bhutan/ In Bhutan they use the plough and the yoke/ Though I have never been to town/ In the town they wear the sethra and mathra.
07Thrung Thrung Karmo1.09Voice: Passang Dorji of Lubcha village
This song reflects on a moment of calm and tranquillity as one bird sits quietly in a tree whilst a black-necked crane circles overhead. If the world cannot be peaceful then why was it made?
08Saja na Norbu rigi pha ja na5.18Voice: Damchoe of Tongra village
When the Lama stays in the temple then the religion flourishes/ When the King stays in the Dzong there is happiness for the people/ When the parents are in the house then wealth will come to it/ When there are girls and boys in the village there will be co-operation between people.
09Yala ayley Sang re la5.32Voices: Lhamo, Passang Dorji and Sonam Penjor
A song recounting a merchant’s life. During his many journeys he always encounters many obstacles. When he crosses rivers he is reminded of his family. Snow covered mountains and passes remind him of his father. The stars remind him of his brothers and sisters. What he wants most is to reach his final destination. To reach home again.
10Laya Bumkhosa Festival2.20One of the most important festivals in Laya is the Laya Bumkhosa, or Bongkor. It takes place in the 5th month of the Bhutanese lunar calendar (around June). Buddhist scriptures and the local texts are strapped to the backs of young men and boys who join a long procession of religious leaders, monks, dancers and young girls. The procession goes around the perimeter of Laya stopping at households on the way. The purpose of the ritual is to prevent sickness, encourage good crops and protect the yak from predators such as bear and snow leopard.
11Prayers and Offerings1.20The third and fourth days of the Laya Bumkhosa are celebrated with a grand archery match between the two halves of Laya, the eastern and the western ends. Until recently the match was always between the Nobs (families that owned yak) and the Sekops (families without yak). Now most families own yak.
12Metho Shaypa phelwa (part)0.50A line dance and song performed at the archery target. Somehow the whole community becomes involved in the archery match played out during the Laya Bumkhosa. The score is close at the start of the second day and the songs, dances and good luck ceremonies are performed in earnest. If the correct rituals and offerings are made to the local deities then victory is assured. The first flower is offered up to the heavens for god’s blessing and for the well-being of people on earth/ The second flower is offered to the earth for peace/ The third flower is offered to the hills to bring wealth.
13Namkha tringmi Dongpa Samray Gaa2.47A line dance and song at the archery target. The happiest moments are when the sky is full of cloud, yet the sun also shines brightly.
14Nangla Zangpo5.18Line dance and song at the Lubcha end. The best place for pilgrimage is in Lhasa at the palace of the Buddha Sakyamuni/ Everything is offered to the god: the holy water, the butter lamps and the flowers/ The second place for pilgrimage is in Bhutan where flourishes the doctrine Dharma of the Zhabdrung.
15Zamling Zaypi metho3.30A circle dance to a Layap love song. During this song the opposing team arrives at the other end of the archery ground (distant singing). A beautiful flower grows in the garden/ It is always in bloom when we see it/ The beauty of things lies in our own eyes.
16Shacho Gongtulamo2.27Circle dance and song at the archery ground. The song is used by Lamas as an aid to meditation. Holding the dorji in the right hand and a bell in the left hand/ Praying for peace and for the living.
17Excitement at the target1.00For a few days the valley resounds to the shrieks and howls of the victorious archers.
18Aulay6.45Voice: Damchoe of Tongra village
On the 15th day of the 9th month of the Bhutanese lunar calendar (around October) the community holds a special festival called Aulay. It is held principally for the health and protection of the yak herds. This song (only part of it on the CD) is the central song that accompanies the Aulay rituals. Much of the song tells about the history of Laya and gives some clues about the significance of the women’s jewellery, clothing and their very distinctive hat.