By Lochan Rijal
The music of Nepal’s numerous indigenous communities has the potential to attract large audiences both within and outside the country. A number of parallels exist between the different styles of Nepal’s indigenous music and other world music. This could possibly open up an infinitely wider field for experimentation. Ethnomusicology is still a subject that is virtually unknown and unexplored in Nepal. For a developing country still coming to grips with the onslaught of information and globalisation, modernisation means westernisation in many respects. This bears a negative connotation when traditions are abandoned without thought in favor of pop culture. As is true in many other countries, the current trend in Nepal music is to simply embrace popular western sounds.
While popular music and indigenous music have their own niche, the overwhelming commercialisation and promotion of the former can overshadow the latter music. This would not pose a problem if there was a similar popularisation of indigenous music to counteract this trend. In the absence of such a trend, indigenous music seems to only cater to specific sets of audiences. Since the problems with the existing scenario with indigenous music in Nepal are many, there needs to be method-based plan and action for the resolution of these problems if the music of Nepal’s many communities is to evolve and flourish.
Creating space for the indigenous music of Nepal in term of popularity, access, documentation, preservation and propagation requires that systematic mechanisms be put in place. A special focus should be placed on increasing the public’s knowledge of and access to the indigenous musician. This could be a multi-faceted program targeted at popularising indigenous music through the media by rigorous promotion, performances and tours. Encouraging the usage of such music and musicians on television and films, as background scores or fillers, would also be helpful. It is also important to focus on business skills in the indigenous music sector since there is a serious lack of expert managers, copyright experts, producers and agents in this field. These skills are imperative for an artist to make wise decision about his/her music and livelihood. To this end, existing networks need to be strengthened; improvements are needed in providing infrastructure including performance venues, recording facilities and touring circuits; and music education in schools and other institutions must be encouraged.
With the above mentioned host of issues requiring attention, an important step toward achieving these goals is an understanding of indigenous music and the artists who create it. The lack of such documentation efforts is one of the major shortcomings in the present scenario in Nepal. It is to fill in this gap that the Hri Institute’s Music on the Move: The Gandharva of Nepal initiative will work to systematically research and document the music and instruments of the Gandharva, considered the musician caste of Nepal. It is our hope that the research will play a part in encouraging further documentation efforts, leading to greater spaces for the performance of and experimentation with the Gandharva repertoire – and that of other communities – on a large scale.