Meet the two rappers leading a hip-hop movement in Bhutan

In conversation with Maynia Dhubee OG and Kezang Dorji at the Mountain Echoes 2018

Anagha M Published :  07th September 2018 03:56 PM   |   Published :   |  07th September 2018 03:56 PM

Maynia Dhubee OG and Kezang Dorji

The Kingdom of Bhutan in the Eastern Himalayas made for a picturesque setting for the literary festival, Mountain Echoes 2018. While eminent speakers, authors and thinkers spoke at the festival, the most popular session by far was Hip-hop: The Rhythm of Rap. The session had rappers Kezang Dorji and Maynia Dhubee OG in conversation with rock musician Kinley Phyntso about hip-hop and Bhutanese culture.  Bhutan, a recent democracy, is still coming to terms with its identity in modern Westernised times, and music is the best prism to glimpse these changes through. We speak to these two very distinct and unique artistes who are at the forefront of the burgeoning rap culture in the country.

Maynia Dhubee OG
Rapper Maynia Dhubee OG has just finished his session at the festival and the mob of school children surrounding him for autographs and selfies can’t seem to get enough of him. “I guess I can say I have a small army,” he grins sheepishly, adding, “It’s probably the way I rap. I can spit well in English while most other rappers rap in Dzongkha (the local language).” Maynia (24) is clearly the bad boy of Bhutanese rap and describes himself to be someone who is in pursuit of the American Dream.  

It all started four years ago when, then known only by his real name Thinlay Namdul Rangol, he was introduced to local hip-hop while studying in Bangkok. “I tried to do many things in my life — football, basketball — none of them worked out for me. But the moment I rapped, I was like this is what I want to do in life.” Maynia was his gaming name from his teenage years and Dhubee, (a play on the word “doobie”), in his language means a Bhutanese person. OG is a moniker given to the original godfathers of rap and that’s exactly what Maynia wants to be in Bhutan. 

Maynia’s rhymes are hard-hitting with  profanity-laced lyrics. “People say I’m not following our culture. They say if you use bad words, you are not Bhutanese. But who doesn’t use profanity nowadays. I think it adds punch and power to my songs and expresses an emotion. I guess it’s good to have hate and love at the same time,” he says. 

He plans to work on his music and find his own unique sound for the next few years. The rapper lists Wiz Khalifa as his inspiration, and hopes to be like him someday. “From India, I really respect Brodha V, Smokey the Ghost, Raja Kumari and Monica Dogra. They’ve made it,” he signs off.

Kezang Dorji, Kinley Phyntso, Maynia Dhubee OG at Mountain Echoes 2018


Kezang Dorji
Kezang (28)  grew up with a fair share of hardships. “If people knew where I come from, nobody would think that I would be a rapper,” he tells us, adding, “I was born in a very remote village — Wooling in eastern Bhutan. We didn’t have electricity or even neighbours. We had to cross two rivers to get to school, and that too in summer, the river would flood and we would be disconnected.” Soon his family moved to a better area, but later, his parents separated. In ninth grade, he heard the song Lose Yourself by Eminem and that inspired him to take up rap. He felt he could relate to the American artiste because of the difficult childhood they share.

“The type of music I do is mostly positive and for social change,” he says. His most popular track, Dear Prime Minister, in the Dzongkha language, encourages people to go out and vote. In the song, he raps about democracy and the power a single vote holds. “Young people are apathetic to politics and don’t want to be apart of it. But it affects all of us, whether you vote or not,” he adds with conviction.

His music and lifestyle is not what you’d expect from a rapper. He is a strict vegetarian who does not drink and spends his weekends either with music or doing social work. He even donated the money he made from his first music video in 2011 to charity. Kezang toured the country (the first to do so in Bhutan) with his Kuzuz-angpo tour. Talking about influences, he names Indian rappers such as Bohemia, Honey Singh, Badshah, Divine and Naezy. “We should give credit to Honey Singh and Badshah because they have made rap part of mainstream music,” he tells us. Kezang is now working on a new album which will be out early next year. 

The writer visited Bhutan on invitation from Mountain Echoes Festival.  
Twitter: @anaghzzz