Mon, 11 Dec, 2023

Resurgence of Folk Instruments

By Shrijak Shrestha

Photo Courtesy:

Nepal has diverse and complex traditions when it comes to music. Each ethnic group has their own sound and distinct instruments. And with the existence of more than 100 ethnic groups in Nepal, the variety of music and tunes are endless. Still the use of folk instruments in popular Nepali music was almost nonexistent until a few years back.

The music scene was saturated with bland generic hard rock and pop music. The underground music scene also consisted of only heavy metal bands that all sounded the same and were carbon copies of their influences from the west. Every kid in the Kathmandu valley grew up listening to foreign bands and wanting to play the guitar or the drums having no idea about the rich music present in their own roots. Such that many of the folk instruments are on the verge of extinction as there is no interest from the later generation to learn them from the former.

Gladly the interest in folk instruments and music is slowly on the rise. Instruments like sarangi, panche baja, madal, ghunguru, murchunga, bhushya, sishya, tungna, arbajo etc. are being used by many musicians. Now there are many bands and artists that experiment with folk melodies and instruments. The band Kutumba plays a major role in the revival of folk music.

Video: Pariwartan by Kutumba

Kutumba is one of the pioneer folk bands that play only folk instruments and experiment with old sounds from all the ethnic groups and the new ideas in western music resulting in music that is original and distinctly Nepali. They comprise of 6 members namely Arun Manandhar on Tungna and Arbajo, Kiran Nepali on Sarangi, Pavit Maharjan on Percussion, Raju Maharjan on Percussion, Rubin Kumar Shrestha on fFlute and Siddhartha Maharjan on effects. They have released 6 albums till date. They are one of the most successful bands in Nepal and in the international scene and have toured all around the world. Listening to Kutumba live is an enlightening experience. Queenie Pradhan, a Chartered Accountant living in UK says, "Getting to see Kutumba live in UK was awesome. They just sound so good and reminded me of Nepal. You gotta see them live.” Another fan Subash Prajapati, pursuing a degree in Computer Science in DWIT says, “Kutumba made me want to learn the Sarangi."

Video: Kathor by Night

Video: Tuina ko cha hai bhara by Night

Night is another experimental folk band that also incorporates vocals into their melodies. They are one of the rising bands in Nepal and have really good songs. Their music videos are also interesting and carry a social message. Ramesh Sodari, pursuing his BBA in Apex College says,” Night is my favourite band now. I just love their music.”

Lakhey band

Another interesting band is Lakhey. They are a band fusing heavy metal music with ethnic music. They also dress up as Lakheys, a carnivorous demon in folklore, in music videos and concerts.

Another musician Lochan Rizal, who previously released music in the rock genre, has now released music with folk elements.

The revival and promotion of folk music will benefit Nepal and will help promote Nepali culture in Nepal as well as internationally. Menosh Appl, a teacher living in Nepal says, "Folk music communicates culture, it shines light on the diversity, richness and history of a land, which I find truly fascinating. Thanks to Shrijak and DWIT students I have come to discover quite a few gems in form of Nepali folk music. There are still many folk instruments that have been forgotten. We need to dive into our culture to make interesting and original music."