Nepali Ho: Contemporary and Traditional music of Nepal (On the Track, 2011)
There is very little music from the Asian nation of Nepal that is making it to the west. Now, with the help of Alejandro Sánchez-Samper, assistant professor and assistant director of Commercial Music at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, music fans will be able to sample some of the most interesting artists from the Himalayan nation.
Nepali: Contemporary and Traditional music of Nepal presents a wide range styles, from Nepalese traditional music roots to jazz and hip hop.
The album opens with Jati Maya, which is a popular Nepali song written by Arun Thapa. The version in Nepali Ho It is by 1974 AD, one of Nepal’s most famous rock bands. 1974 AD fuse Neplaese folk with rock, funk, blues and jazz. They chose to record this track and Nepali Ho as a tribute to their homeland. The song incorporates the madal, a northern Indian dual-membrane hand drum that is often used in all types of Nepali music. The band includes Adrian Pradhan on vocals & drums; Nirakar Yakthumba on bass & backing vocals; Manoj Kumar KC on guitar, keyboards & backing vocals; and Sanjay Shrestha on percussions & backing vocals.
‘Freedom’ and ‘Planet Nepal’ were both recorded live in Kirtipur, Nepal on August 13th. These two instrumental compositions were written and performed by Kutumba, a six-person ensemble from Kathmandu. The band performs contemporary Nepali folk instrumental music. Freedom was written in 2009 to commemorate a year of no-violence following the 10 year Maoist insurrection that brought much violence to Nepal. Planet Nepal, a composition written by Kutumba in 2010 as a theme for a conference by the same name that was held in Kathmandu to bring awareness about climate change.
Kutumba members: Arun Manandhar on tungna & arbajo, Kiran Nepali on sarangi, Pavit Maharjan on percussion, Raju Maharjan on percussion, Rubin Kumar Shrestha on flute, Siddhartha Maharjan on effects.
Hip hop seems to be a prerequisite in most international compilations recently. Nepali rap is represented by ‘Brick City,’ a collaboration between two of Kathmandu’s hiphop artists, Yama Buddha and Aid Ray accompanied by Nishanta Gauchan on
beatbox. The song was recorded live in the streets of Thamel district in Kathmandu. The lyrics are decidedly political, indicating the youth’s general distrust for the political established order in Nepal.
1974 AD returns with the title cut, ‘Nepali Ho,’ a song that has more of a rock edge.
This rearranged popular song is a tribute to their ancestors who fought bravely, warding off the British invasion.
Kutumba returns with another instrumental piece titled ‘New Folder.’ The improvisatory rhythmic piece follows western musical style conventions of ABA form. The A section is clearly rhythmic while the B section presents a more melodic structure, transitioning into an improvisational C section that features the sarangi (a bowed string instrument native to Nepal, different from the Indian sarangi) followed by a bansuri (bamboo flute) solo.
‘Song of the Mountain’ by Mukti is one of the highlights of the album. It’s a delightful original instrumental composition in 7/8 time performed with chaturangi (Hindustani slide guitar), bansuri (bamboo flute), and tabla.
Jazz ensemble Urjazz fuses jazz with Spanish tango (a Flamenco genre) and Hindi classical styles on ‘Thais for Tasngos.’ Mariano Abello, director of the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory, leads the ensemble.
‘Mero Maya’ is a spirited vocal and piano ballad by 22-year old singer-songwriter Subani Moktan. The song was recorded in one-take with no overdubs or edits.
Bach meets tabla in ‘Reinvention # 13 in A minor ,’ This is a rare arrangement of J.S Bach’s Invention #13 in A minor for piano and tabla in 9/8 time. Sixteen-year-old child
prodigy Ashesh Rai performs the tabla.
Urjazz presents another improvisatory piece titled Vidhea that combines eastern influences with contemporary jazz. The piece features improvisations on the chaturangi, voice, sax, and tabla and drums.
The last two cuts are Durga I and II, a traditional raga performed by Vajra. The triop features esraj (bowed sitar), sarod (a fretless stringed instrument reminiscent of a banjo) and tabla.
Professor Sánchez-Samper travelled to Kathmandu, Nepal to record this album of traditional and contemporary Nepalese music in August of 2011. Thanks in part to a research travel grant awarded to him from Florida Atlantic University’s Asian Studies Certificate program and a successful internet fundraising campaign through
Kickstarter, Mr. Sánchez-Samper was able to secure enough funds to produce a full-length album.
“This album is an opportunity for Nepali artists to further their career in Nepal and abroad”, said Mr. Sánchez-Samper in article that appeared on September 1st, 2011 in The Himalayan Times.
The album was recorded in August of 2011 at the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory’s Kat/Jazz studios. All musicians who performed on the album were compensated properly and all songwriter’s will receive mechanical royalties from its sale. A portion of the proceeds of the album will go towards a music scholarship fund to benefit students at the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory and aid in the construction of a school in Chapaguan, Nepal.
Nepali Ho: Contemporary and Traditional music of Nepal is a fascinating portrait of some of the most interesting artists in the current Nepali music scene.
Listen to samples and buy MP3s: Nepali Ho: Contemporary and Traditional music of Nepal
Physical CD copies of the album can be purchased at http://siganepal.bandcamp.com.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.