Music and folk instruments in Nepal hold great significance as it stands synonymous to Nepalese culture, tradition, festivals and celebrations. Not only is it a source of merriment and jollity but it also reflects the cultural identity and traditions of many indigenous communities in Nepal. The musical traditions of Nepal are as diverse as the various ethnic groups of the country. The tunes and instruments are varied based on the multitude of ethnicity, culture and location. Be it a festival, puja, jatra or ceremonies, you can hear the original Nepali folk melodies and witness some of the unique vintage instruments. According to a research, about 200 original instruments have been developed in Nepal while 108 of them are still being played across the nation. Nepal has a plethora of tunes and rhythms of its own to share with the rest of the world. Likewise there are several Nepali instruments that are unseen, unheard and unexplored. Let us give you a taste of folk instruments from Nepal:
- Madal: This musical instrument was played first by Magar community. Later on, it gained popularity throughout the country. It is cylindrical in shape with a slight bulge in the middle. Its main frame is made of wood or clay, and the leather on two of its heads is what vibrates and produces the sound. Both heads are played with hands, holding the madal drum horizontally. This typical Nepalese percussion instrument is the backbone of most of Nepali folk music. Madal is played by beating both sides with the use of hands.
- Sarangi: Sarangi is the traditional musical instrument of Gandarva community of Kaski district. It has four wires and is played by rubbing on the wire and can be said to be a miniature version of violin owing to its technique and structure. The people of Gandarva community play this instrument along with the song they compose about real life incidents and events which they can relate with. Traditional Nepali Sarangi is made up of single piece of light-wood having a neck and hollow structure with four strings tightly fastened on the top of it with wooden nails. This Nepali musical instrument is played with the use of small stick which is incorporated with strings.
- Basuri/Murali (Flute): Murali is long cylindrical in shape and is made of bamboo with 6 holes in it. It is played by blowing air with our mouth as you hold it with your fingers. Murali is played like flute/trumpet holding it in between lips and sloping downwards whereas Basuri is held horizontally. Both of these instruments produce almost similar sounds. In eastern culture, flute represents Lord Krishna. The names Murali and Basuri are synonyms and used alternately in some languages.
- Panche Baja: The name Panche Baja is attributed owing to its unique assortment of five instruments. The five musical instruments in panche baja are.
- Jhyamta/Jhurma (Cymbal): It is a couple of flat round dish-like musical instrument made of brass or bronze, played beating against each other.
- Narsingha (A Trumpet): It is made up of two pieces curved copper tube that is played by blowing air through its mouthpiece.
- Nagara/Damaha (A Drum): It is made of leather stretched over an end of a hollow copper bowl played by hitting with hands or sticks.
- Sanai (A kind of clarinet): It is made of a metal shaped like a pipe slightly bent forward has couple of holes, reed on the top that you blow into.
- Tyamko: It is similar to Damaha in shape but very small in size, played with two pieces of sticks called Gajo.
5. Damphu: Damphu is popularly used in Tamang community and is made by covering the wood with leather. It is somewhat similar to a tambourine and is played by beating the leather with hands.