Making a living as a drum or Nga maker

Parents are the largest resource centre available to their children. The skills, experiences, and interests that they have acquired throughout their lives become a catalyst to build a foundation for their children. Likewise, through the skills acquired from his father-in-law, a 36-year-old man in Paro is running a profitable business by making drums, locally known as Nga.

Nga or drums are widely used in the country as important musical instruments for religious rituals or folk music and performances. Most households own a pair of ritual drums for use during religious rituals.

Given the market potential, 36-year-old Gaugay left his job and ventured into making drums in 2017. To further enhance his business, he took a loan of close to one million Ngultrum last year. He operates his business from Shaba.

Despite the pandemic, Gaugay managed to make more than a hundred pairs of drums which he sold for Nu 12,000. Today, a pair of drums cost Nu 14,500.

“I don’t have any formal training on woodcraft and making drums. I learned from my wife and father-in-law. I planned to get into the drum-making business because working as a contract employee wasn’t secure. I got the license in 2017,” said Gaugay.

“My father used to make drums since we were little. We used to watch him make drums. We picked up and carefully studied the methods and then we tried our hands. Today, all my siblings who are residing in Gelephu and Haa also make drums. It was I who learned first and then my husband followed suit,” said Gaupay’s wife, Phub Zam.

Inspiring his children to follow in his footsteps, 83-year-old Jaazi, Gaugay’s father-in-law, is a happy man today.

“I think it’s possible to do anything if we put our hearts into it. I am happy I was able to impart the skills to my children. Drum-making is a well-dignified and respected career. I had a decent and easy life. I am optimistic that my children will follow in my footsteps and have a good life.”

Drums in Buddhist culture symbolise the sound of Buddha’s teachings. Thus, they are viewed as sacred objects, deeply valued and respected.

The Bhutanese drums have drumheads on the two sides of the wooden body and are usually played using drumsticks made of cane.

Namgay Wangchuk, Paro

Edited by Sonam Pem

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