As a part of Bhutan Echoes’ monthly program to promote and support local engagement, we hosted a Spoken Word Open Mic Night at Mojo Park on December 26th. This event included a live performance by the talented Yakam band, music guru Mr. Kamer Singh, writers, and poets from the Royal Thimphu College. 

The purpose of this program was to celebrate young people, their voices and provide a platform for expression and creativity. 

Yakam is a group of five young talented Bhutanese artists and musicians. Their glitz and performance shook the night, the ease with which performers were able to tap into themselves and draw out their natural talent was effortless. The words danced and rolled off their tongue in the most fluent way, which allowed their performance to have a powerful and distinct effect on the audience. 

Mr. Kamer Singh, a leader of Indian classical music who has extensive experience in teaching music in India as well as in Bhutan, performed at the open mic. He was selected by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (Ministry of External Affairs) as the Teacher of Indian Music for the Nehru Wangchuck Cultural Centre of the Embassy of India in 2019. He performed a beautiful song in Dzongkha, which captured the hearts of the Bhutanese audience, who all sang along with him.

In addition, we had eight wonderful students from Royal Thimphu College from the English Department who shared their original work as part of the poetry reading session. 

Open-mics are an opportunity for shared creativity and are communal. It can be daunting to perform on stage, especially to share one’s personal experiences or emotions with strangers via song or poem. However, the atmosphere was filled with a sense of encouragement, acceptance, and appreciation for those who were willing to share their talent and creativity. The spoken word open mic was a fun and enjoyable evening for both performers and the audience.

By bringing people together, engaging and sharing, the warm colors of energy and inspiration flowed from the performers to the audience, and sealed the open mic syndrome into the heart of the audience, causing the need for expression of one’s mind and a more confident way of interacting with our creativity.

During the main open mic, six participants from the audience volunteered to share their poems, spoken words, and songs that were meaningful to them.

The space and laid-back feel encouraged people to break out of their shells and showcase their creative abilities. For participants like Sangay Zam, a student majoring in English studies at Royal Thimphu College, it is “an amazing feeling to be onstage sharing something that I put my heart and soul into.”

For some, Open Mic Night was also a chance to overcome shaky legs and stage jitters. Getting up on the stage, though difficult, appeared to be extremely rewarding for those like Tenzin Wangchuk, who said his free-write performance gave him an opportunity to “put my words out there and let it go, even if I didn’t prepare.”

A total of 22 participants and performers took part, they found the open mic to be both powerful and relieving. It uplifted both the heart and spirit of the audience.  

“It was delightful. I got to share my own poetry in a safe space and I got to experience the wonderful poetry of my peers,” Dechen Wangmo, a participant states. “This was my first time reciting in an informal setting, there is something different about the kind of energy and liveliness.” 

Sangay Thinley, a spectator, said his favorite part of the poetry reading session is learning from other poets. “There are a lot of talented writers in the community, I like hearing everyone’s style,” he said. “No individual writes the same way, and I feel like I can learn more by hearing more styles. It’s all wonderful stuff.”

Producer Kitso Pelmo said, “It’s a chance to share your work and listen to others, there’s so much talent out there and we want young people to feel free to express themselves. To be brave and excited enough in what you can create yourself and share it with other people, I think that’s always positive.” 

Ultimately, the Spoken Word Open Mic Night was successful and Bhutan Echoes plans to host many more similar events.