Regional Music from the mountain tops of Nepal

Hidden in the remote villages and high mountains of Nepal is a musical legacy even more varied and richer than its acclaimed natural beauty. Even today, Nepal’s musical heritage remains under-appreciated, by both national and international audiences. The instruments, rhythms and melodies found in the “lok geet” or folk music of the Nepal Hills reflect a thousand years of cross-polinization between distinct, yet ultimately complimentary, musical heritages.

Nepal has nearly 40 different ethnic groups and multiple religions and languages. As such, the music of Nepal is similarly varied and multi-leveled ranging from Nepalese folk to pop music to religious music and even Nepalese classical music. Nepalese music has been greatly influenced by the musical genres of Tibet and India.

For such a musically diverse area, Nepal has in fact several castes of musicians. And these influence the type of music that is produced . The damai, who are both musicians and tailors, and the gaine, who were originally fisherman but are now traveling minstrels. The gaine — who typically play the sarangi , a four-stringed, hand-carved instrument — generally perform in exchange for food or other necessesities. Damai are perhaps best-known for their participation in panchai baja , a form of wedding band consisting of drums , horns cymbals and shawms — an oboe-like instrument with a wide conical bore that emits a particularly loud, nasal-sounding tone.

The highly-ritualized wedding ceremony includes a specific tune for the panchai baja to play in each section. In Kathmandu Valley for example , the panchai baja has been supplanted by brass bands. Of note — Nepali women do not play music except for in specific situations, such as at the traditional all-female wedding parties.