Lebé: An Auspicious Song and Dance

Lebé (ལེགས་པས་) is a popular Bhutanese song and dance that is performed at the end of festive and celebratory occasions throughout Bhutan. In particular, the song and dance are performed to conclude an event by communicating auspicious words and prayers for wellbeing. The Dzongkha term ‘lebé’ literally translates as a phrase ‘it is good’ in English. It is a slow dance and sung with a long, soothing tune.

When an event is about to conclude, lebé is performed as the final dance and song. All the guests and participants are requested to join the dance—even those people who don’t normally dance or those who do not know how to dance take part in lebé for the sake of auspiciousness to come. The gathering forms a circle and moves clockwise. When there are more people than what the space can accommodate in a single line, two or three circles are formed. A lead singer with good voice, either male or female, sings the main lyrics of the lébé. The rest of the crowd joins in the chorus which goes “ah lebé lebé​ lebé sa, au lebé chog lu shog chig ge” (ཨ་ལེགས་པས་ལེགས་པས་ལེགས་པས་ས། ཨ་ལེགས་པས་ཕྱོགས་ལུ་ཤོག་ཅིག་གེ །), which translates as “O, it is good, it is good, it is good. O, may it be on the good side.” The dancers move forward in slow steps while singing the lyrics and the first part of the chorus "aw lebé, lebé, lebé so” and turn around while singing the second part of the chorus.

The main lyrics of lebé may vary from singer to singer and region to region but they are all sung in the same long tune. The following is the beginning of one of the most common versions of lebé:

དགུང་མཐོ་བ་ནམ་མཁའི་དཀྱིལ་འཁོར་ནང་། །འོད་གསལ་བ་ཁྲི་གདུགས་ཉི་མ་བཞུགས། །

དགུང་དབྱིངས་མཐོན་པོ་བཀྲ་ཤིས་པས། །ཁྲི་གདུགས་ཉི་མ་གཡང་ཆགས་པས། །

བཀྲ་ཤིས་དང་གཡང་ཆགས་གཉིས་པོ། །ནང་ཁང་བཟང་ཁྲ་མོར་བཞུགས་དགོ་པས། །

དབུས་དམའ་བ་ནོར་བུའི་ས་གཞི་ལ། །མཐོཝ་དབུས་ཀྱི་རི་བོ་མཆོག་རབ་གཞུགས། །

ཕྱི་གླིང་བཞི་གླིང་ཕྲན་བཀྲ་ཤིས་པས། །ནང་འཛམ་བུ་གླིང་འདི་གཡང་ཆགས་པས། །

བཀྲ་ཤིས་དང་གཡང་ཆགས་གཉིས་པོ། །ནང་ཁང་བཟང་ཁྲོ་མོར་བཞུགས་དགོ་པས། །

 

At the zenith of the space of high sky

Is the lustrous pinnacle of the sun.

The high sky is auspicious.

The pinnacle of the sun is propitious.

The auspicious and the propitious

Must abide in the house.

 

On the low ground of jewel earth

Is the high supreme central Mt Meru.

The outer continents and islands are auspicious.

The inner earth is propitious.

The auspicious and the propitious

Must abide in the house.

Lebé is also sung during ceremonial processions but different sets of lyrics appropriate for the occasion are used. The ladies or men who are singing in a procession normally sing lebé but in processions, the dancers walk forward rhythmically holding their hands up but do not have to agree the steps or turn around. There is no special costume for lebé. People dance and sing wearing normal clothing, although dancers may wear special scarves. The men lift their hands to the height of their shoulders and women to that of their chests, often holding the ends of scarves in their hands.

It is one of the performing arts which allows participation of all people and is easy to follow without having to learn the choreography or the lyrics.

 

Karma Phuntsho is a social thinker and worker, the President of the Loden Foundation and the author of many books and articles including The History of Bhutan.

Bhutan Cultural Library Local Song Bhutan

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A description of the contents and performance of Lebey, a concluding song and dance meant to cultivate auspiciousness.

Collection Bhutan Cultural Library
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users (default)
Author Karma Phuntsho
Editor Ariana Maki
Year published 2017
Language English
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