The proliferation of pop, jazz, soul, blues, reggae and other genres of western music in the Nepali market is a reflection of how our own musical heritage has been sidelined in recent decades.
Most of the country’s youngsters have hardly any knowledge on folk instruments, and seem to be in no hurry to start getting acquainted with their musical heritage. The rather desolate looking National Folk Music Instrument Museum (NFMIM) located at Tripureshwor is veritable proof of it. The rare visits that the NFMIM receives are a reflection of how ignored this precious heritage really is.
“Lok Music is, in many ways, an aesthetic expression of our Nepali culture, and proof of our rich heritage,” says Ram Prasad Kadel, the Founding Director of NFMIM. “These indigenous instruments are part of our identity,” he adds. According to experts, ‘Lok’ music has its roots in the Sama Veda, and Nepal is a country which celebrates its cultural and historical link to the Vedas. The sculptures and monuments of Gods and Goddesses (often depicted with one or another musical instrument) that adorn temples here reflect this significant cultural fact.Kadel has been collecting musical instruments—many of which are on the verge of extinction—for many years now. He founded the NFMIM in 1997. The proprietor of a handicrafts business, Kadel has shelled out his own pockets in procuring the 250 rare instruments the museum now boasts of. The folk music enthusiast and collector, who is an expert on the subject himself, claims that there are more than 60 thousand melodies, over 1,000 musical instruments and around three thousand dance-forms indigenous to Nepal.
“Every ethnic group in the country has a folk instrument to represent itself. Instruments like the Phunga, Mehalli, Sarangi, Murali and Narsingha signify and characterise the various ethnic groups of Nepal,” he says. “There is something about music that pervades nature itself,” he adds. “The murmur of running water, the whisper of the evening breeze, the roar of thunder storms, the distant hum of chirping birds and crying animals, all contain a thread of music in them,” he says.
KP Poudel, a member of the NFMIM and an expert on folk dance expresses how the country’s youth need to be made more aware of their cultural heritage. “These integral components of our heritage need to be recognised before they are lost to us forever,” he says. Founding Director Kadel shares similar views as well.
Published in The Kathmandu Post