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Pemagatshel: Singing a dream

Villagers of the remote Yangbari village in Nanong, Pemagatshel, know when Sherab Wangmo is in the nearby forest herding cattle; their ears pick up a melodious voice humming a zhungdra (traditional) tune wafting through the air.

Sherab Zangmo

At 17 Sherab Zangmo, a Class VI student, is obsessed with becoming a professional singer. The enthusiasm to achieve that dream can be felt in her voice and seen in her eyes.

Coming from a poor family, Sherab Zangmo joined school at the age of eleven when a community school opened in her village in 2000.

Before that she stayed at home helping her parents and working in the fields.

But her passion for singing burnt bright even before she joined school. Sherab recalls learning songs from friends who returned home on winter vacation from their schools.

"I used to look forward to the vacation so that I could learn songs from them," she said. "And within few days I used to sing along without knowing what the songs meant".

Later she picked up more songs from the radio.

Her neighbours agree that she has a rich melodious voice. "As a child, she would go to her neighbour's house during tsechus and other occasions and sing without even being asked to," said a 54-year old woman.

Villagers invited her to sing during important occasions at their house and she was made to sing every time there was an important function in the village.

She said that her first performance in front of people outside the village was during an agriculture programme held in the gewog, about eight years ago. "I was praised and that motivated me," she said.

Sherab Zangmo once heard over the radio that a private music company in Thimphu would recruit interested people with a minimum Class V qualification. Her excitement knew no bounds as she was completing Class V that year. But she did not go anywhere.

"My parents could not afford to take me all the way to Thimphu and said that we had nobody there," she said. "I cried throughout that week."

During her only visit outside her village to Dewathang, where her sister lived with her husband, she said that she saw on television the royal dancers performing and was simply fascinated.

"Had I been in Thimphu I would be doing the same thing," she said. She has also composed five songs on her own.

Sherab's father, 53, said they could not afford to enroll her into school earlier because she was needed at home. "We are assured that she would build up a career through singing in the future."

The school head teacher and Sherab's class teacher, Namgay Wangchuk, told Kuensel that she was academically an average student but was very active in the co-curricular activities.

"Singing is a very suitable career for her but it is also important to realise that education is equally necessary to pursue the career," he said,

Sherab Zangmo is determined to be a professional singer some day. "I have been singing since I can remember. Now I just want to get some place where I could show my talent," she said.

Contributed by Kesang Dema, Kuensel 2006

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