Music and Dance

Nepali classical music has its origins in the Rig Veda. Later, the metrical chanting of its hymns found its expression in the songs of Sama Veda. Since then classical music has been a part of the Nepali music sphere. The tradition of playing classical music has been handed down from generation to generation. 

The classical structure of a melody is known as Raga, and there are hundreds of Ragas either played on musical instruments or sung according to seasons and time. The 24 hour period is divided into 8 segments of 3 hours each and each Raga is restricted to a particular time frame in order to produce the desired effect. At times, some branches of these ragas composed of songs are incorporated in dances. 

Small groups of itinerant minstrels namely Damais and Gaines have become an integral part of the Nepali folk culture. Traditionally, Gaines go from door to door singing folk songs accompanying themselves on the Sarangi (a local violin-like instrument) as this is their profession. They travel from place to place telling tales often related to past events. The Damais play various instruments including the Sahanai (a kind of trumpet). Traditionally, they have been playing in ensembles where many instruments are played and were mostly engaged to play for weddings. For such events, the Damais play Panchai Baja (Sahanai, Narsinga (trumpet-like instrument), Damaha (drum), Dholaki and Tyamko (a small drum)). But music is only a part time job for them as they earn a living from tailoring. Folk music in Nepal thrives throughout the country and they are as diverse as the ethnic groups themselves. 

The Newars of Kathmandu Valley are the main exponents of classical dancing. They have kept alive the traditions of performing masked dances during their many colorful festivals. Such dances are often of a Tantric nature with the dancers being possessed by various gods and goddesses. The Lakhe dance is of particular interest and in Bhaktapur the colorful Mahakali masked dancers perform during the Indra Jatra festival each year. 

Masked dances are also performed by monks in the numerous monasteries around Nepal. In fact some treks are timed to coincide with festivals where masked dances are the highlight. Each year many tourists arrive in Thyangboche and other places to observe the popular Mani Rimdu festival. Mani Rimdu is unique to the Himalayan regions but other masked dances do take place around Katmandu as well especially during the Tibetan New Year. 
The Tharu people of the tarai have their own stick dances that can mesmerize spectators while the Gurungs have a unique drama-like dance called the Ghantu where young girls go into a trance. The dance speaks of their heritage and depicts past events that are of historical significance. These are also sometimes performed especially for tourists.
Musical instruments 

There is evidence in the form of ancient stone statues indicating that Nepali music was alive even before the time of the Kiranti and Licchavi dynasties. 7th century inscriptions show the existence of a well-organized musical team (ensemble) even during that era. There are many musical instruments mostly made from local resources. Nekoo, made of the horn of a water buffalo, is believed to scare away evil spirits when played.
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