Thursday, February 05, 2009

High lonesome sound

Down from the mountain, part 2

Last night's UNESCO bash, the opening ceremony and performance for the three-day mini-festival Music of the Gods: the Intangible Heritage of Nepal's Musical Castes, was like a Himalayan hootenanny.

UNESCO is an organization better known for preserving architecture and works of material art. However in 2003 they passed a resolution to begin work on restoring and preserving "intangible heritage" - music and dance.

Last night they had gathered traditional Nepali folk musicians from remote areas; for some of them it was their first trip ever into Kathmandu. Folk musicians and dancers are of various traditionally "lower" castes such as Badi, Gandarbha and Damai.

I really enjoyed one fellow whose music, except for being in Nepali, sounded just like Old Time American, and the 22-year-old Gandharba girl who had carved and created her own sarangi (Nepali fiddle).

By the end everyone was dancing, including the grey-haired expat crowd, in a celebration of Nepali pride. I like the way Nepali pride never seems to verge on arrogance, unlike some nationalities I won't mention here.

As a Tennessee native, I have long noticed the similarities between Nepali folk and Appalachian folk music. Especially, the sound of the sarangi is so much like the Old Time Fiddle. Even the melodies are eerily similar. After talking to Sean from UNESCO I find that great minds think and hear alike, and there is now something called the Mountain Music Project linking these musicians of these two traditions. Check it out!


Winnowed said...

I like the way you say “I like the way Nepali pride never seems to verge on arrogance, unlike some nationalities I won't mention here.” I wonder which nationalities you have in mind. I can think of quite a few.

Sudarshan Gopalakrishnan said...


Sirensongs said...

Why SG, whatever would make you say such a thing?:-)

Nepalis, while very proud with the pride of the underdog that's always been sandwiched between superpowers, do seem to wear their pride fairly lightly. Sort of like the Topi. It's jaunty, colourful, yet dignified, and just sort of sits at an angle on the head. Yet it is the symbol of their national pride. And all their music is happy and upbeat. It does say something about a "national character."

HippieDiva said...

Hear hear sister! As insane as living in Kathmandu can be at times...the politics, the load-shedding, the street vendor harassment, etc...the shining gem of Nepal...are in my heart and mind...the Nepali people. Well spoken...I completely concur.