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Nepalese Musical Instrument

Nepalese musical instrument has a very strong relationship with Nepalese culture and religion. Nepal has a lot more tunes and rhythms of its own to share with the rest of the world. The musical traditions of Nepal are as diverse as the various ethnic groups of the country. The most complex musical culture in the Himalayas is that of the “Newars“ in the Kathmandu valley and the “Damai” in the other part of Nepal, which in the course of the past 2000 years has absorbed mostly Indian influences in shaping a unique musical tradition. In Nepal music has been flourished by mainly these two groups of people.

Newar’s culture flourished during the late Malla dynasty from the 15th century up to the 18th century. The Malla kings of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur were devoted patrons of the arts and competed with one another in the beautification and cultural achievements of their kingdoms. Many of these Malla kings themselves excelled as musicians, dancers, poets and town planners.

The Newars live in a Buddhist-Hindu area where the two religions coexist along with a strong influence of Tantric practices and local traditional cults. In the complex Newar caste system both Hindus and Buddhists have found their place. Many of these castes perform their own characteristic musical repertory and ritual duties during festivals and processions. Newar music and dance are always related to ritual and locality. A portion of Newar music is secretly performed during esoteric rites.

Bhaktapur, a Newar farmers’ town at the eastern part of the Kathmandu valley has been able so far to preserve its traditional heritage. In 1989 there were still more than 200 music and dance groups performing regularly. With the influx of tourism and western and far eastern technologies this picture changes rapidly. It is conceivable that these living cultural treasures may vanish within one generation. For the future there needs to be an effective method for the preservation of traditional music and dance.

The other group that has historic touch with Nepalese music is “Damai”. From the prospects of indigenous Nepalese rituals, culture and musical anthropology, the linkage of traditional musicians seems to be tied with the invention of "DAMAHA" (a flat drum generally structured by wood or metal and sometime even by roasted soil especially in "TABLA”, another type of flat twin being used in Nepalese music.)

In Nepalese society, special group plays musical instruments in ceremonies, occasions, etc. to perform the rituals and tradition. These traditional musicians are known as "DUM" as well as "DAMAI".
The Nepalese cultural way of perceiving things and words and explaining and naming them, the word "Dum" seems to be derived symbolically after the sound of the traditional Nepali musical instrument "DAMAHA" in the sense that if we listen to the beat of the "DAMAHA" the sound produce is more or less like "DUM". Similarly, the other word "DAMAI" denotes the functional linkage between "DAMAHA" and the person who plays it. The word "DAMAHA" is originated from "SANSKRIT" language. In "SANSKRIT" the person who plays "DAMAHA" is called "YAHA DAMAHA BADYATE". As per the traditional way of synthesizing the long sentences in Nepalese society the above three worded SANSKRIT sentence seems to be synthesized and joined as "DAMA+YAHA" to indicate the drummer and thus this word might have been converted as "DAMAI" in Nepali language.

The early "DAMAIS" later invented another traditional instrument like "sahanai". "DAMAIS" have been playing these musical instruments like sahanai for the generations in special MUHURATAS (time) of special sacred ritual ceremonies like "BRATABANDHA"(a Vedic Brahmanic ritual).

Still today we can see “Damais” playing musical instruments like “damaha”, “sahanai”, “tanpura”, “panche baja”, “narsingha” etc. in special occasions like marriage ceremony, bratabandha, festivals, etc.

Nepalese musical instruments have great importance in Nepalese culture and society. Nepalese musical instruments are played in special ceremony like wedding, bratabandha (a Vedic Brahmanic ritual), and welcome ceremony and in any other ceremony or festivals. Different musical instruments are found in Nepal. Most of them are produced in Nepal. Musical instruments like “madal”(Two sided drum), " sarangi" “damphu”, “damaru”, “basuri” (Flute), “sarangi”, “pancha Baja”, “ghunguru” (Ankle Bells), etc. There are several Nepali instruments, which are unheard, untouched and unexplored and Sarangi is one among them. sarangi musical instrument is played by sarangi. Nepalese musical instruments are enjoyed by all the Nepalese people especially on the occasions, festivals, or any other ceremonies.

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