The invasion of pop and B-boying culture in Bhutan

By Tshering Dema

B-boying, a modern urban dance form and pop culture and often referred to as a synonym for conventional break-dancing, will be inducted as an Olympic sport in the upcoming Paris Olympics, 2024.

The news comes as hope for millions of B-boyers across the planet who can now take the culture into ever greater heights. Back home in Bhutan, a select group of budding youngsters are also grappled by the new b-boying and pop culture. 

The co-founder of Gokab, Tenzin Namgay a b-boying aficionado, said the culture of b-boying, hip-hop and freestyle cultures started about a few years bcak when a group of young school kids decided to form a group and promote the new culture, which had by then already permeated into Bhutanese schools and streets.

Tenzin says that he was inspired by his seniors, who were also the founding members of the group, and that they have gradually evolved as a strong band of brothers over the years.

The budding artiste says that the news of b-boying being inducted as an Olympic sport is a massive inspiration for youth like him who are into this new culture. Tenzin also believes that Bhutanese b-boyers are also capable of making it big at the international arena.

While many believe that the culture of b-boying and hip-hop is basically a new trend among Bhutanese youth, a few said that the Gokab group, which was formed around 2006, are one of the pioneers in the country who had really worked towards promoting this new culture.

β€œJust a few years ago freestyle and b-boying as a new form of dancing was just pursued for entertainment purpose. However, over time, many youth across the country have taken the new wave of culture while some even embraced it as a fulltime career.

Initially named as the Druk Dream Team, the group at the onset had about 32 active members who all shared a common dream – to embrace b-boying as a new dance form. However, though the group separated ways and fizzled out over time, their passion for b-boying was kept alive through the Gokab platform where they were active members.

Gokab is a dance platform for youth who are into bboying, freestyle, hip-hop and other new forms and cultures. Some Bhutanese b-boyers have even represented in events across India, Nepal, China, Taiwan and Thailand.

Members of Gokab troupe said they are in the process of forming a federation and get themselves registered under Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) so that they can partake in future international events.

Some of them also shared that starting b-boying clubs in schools and institutions across the country could also be one of the ways to promote it and reach to a wider youth base.    

The group has also tied-up with other international bodies so that young enthusiasts can get scholarships to pursue their dreams. β€œB-boying is a growing universal culture and phenomenon, and Bhutanese youth have a lot of scope if they can explore these avenues,” Tenzin Namgay said. 

He also added that such initiatives have given new platforms for aspiring youth who can now pursue what they love doing instead of whiling away their time in other harmful activities, like doing drugs and alcohol.

Tenzin said that the members are keeping the flames of their passions alive by constantly working on new steps and also a fusion of contemporary Bhutanese music with a global touch and appeal.

The group also conducts competition among school children across the country and at regular intervals to give platform for budding young artistes to showcase their b-boying and dancing talents. 

At the onset, Gokab members said they faced extreme difficulties as they had no financial support or the platform to showcase their talents. However, over time their influence grew and many started appreciating their efforts and came forward to support them.

The members also started to conduct dance lessons for enthusiasts, which now covers a substantial portion operational expense. To peak it all, the group was also able to send a lot of budding youth to participate in other countries.

Tenzin shares that he is determined to pursue b-boying as a full time career and also help other youth who are keen on pursuing it. β€œInterested youths can always step into our dance studio which is located in the heart of the capital city. We will give our one hundred percent to ensure that they take and learn what they intend to do,” he said.

A friend of Tenzin and also a co-founder of the Gokab group, Pushpa Ghalley, said being a girl she has always been tested in life but it only made her evolve stronger. She said that she was always motivated and interested in dancing even as a small kid.

Though her mother had always restricted her from becoming a dancer, as it was considered a profession for the lowly ranked, Pushpa always wanted to pursue her dreams and prove her doubters wrong.

She says that while being a woman in itself is big challenge, choosing to embrace dancing as a career would definitely rouse all kinds of questions and queries. Nonetheless, she chose to pursue her dream to become a professional dancer.

Pushpa urges girls to come forward and prove that women are equally capable in every field they choose to pursue. β€œAlways believe in yourself and don’t get demotivated when things don’t work to your favour. Prove your doubters wrong,” she said.  

Today, young enthusiasts like Tenzin and Pushpa have become role models and has become a beacon of hope for youngsters who dare to pursue different and often uncharted feats in life.

B-boying is one such culture which is new in the country but has already taken strong roots. The Olympic dream could further bolster this growing passion among our youth, and for good. 

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