Nepali audience’s musical taste is broadening but still many have herd mentality: Kiran Nepali
Kutumba is a folk instrumental ensemble committed to the research, preservation and celebration of diversity that exists in indigenous Nepali music. The word ‘Kutumba’ holds a special meaning in Nepali language. It stands for a unique bond amongst community members. As their name suggests, Kutumba fuses traditional folk tunes and instruments with new and improvised sounds. The man behind the soothing sarangi tunes of Kutumba is none other than Kiran Nepali. A third generation sarangi player, he says he is greatly influenced by his grandfather, father and uncles who were all good Sarangi players of their times. Last year, Kiran spent four weeks studying sarangi (a stringed instrument) in Batulechaur area, a well known Gandharbha (traditional musician caste) settlement close to Pokhara. Kiran also plays guitar. Having recently joined Kutumba, Kiran says he feels great energy within the ensemble and is looking forward to future projects together. Barun Bajracharya met with this sarangi maestro for an informal conversation. Excerpts of the interview:
What is music? Why is it necessary for human beings?
Music is basically the sounds of the surrounding and the society you grow up with. Music is the individual’s interpretation of the sound they hear. In other words music is the sound a person relates to himself and that also fires imagination. Music has been an integral part of life from beginning to end. Music is also a tool to express your feeling and the best means to keep everyone happy.
What inspired you to be a musician?
I belong to a Gandarbha family. There has always been music in my life since the time I was inside my mother’s womb. The musical environment I grew up with has been the greatest inspiration of my life. Moreover, my grandfather and my uncle have inspired me a lot.
Which are your favourite musical instruments and why?
My favourite instrument is and will always be my own instrument sarangi, as it has been a part of my life. Every day I wake up and explore more of my instrument because there is so much potential in this instrument and the sound has its uniqueness too that makes sarangi a sound apart.
How do you define Kutumba’s music?
Kutumba’s music is the unified sound of Nepal and it defines the unique sound resembling diverse Nepal. We experimented with fusion music; a mixture of folk sounds of Nepal with music across the globe to give contemporary sound to the folk element. Our effort is geared towards preserving traditional sounds and musical instruments of Nepal and also to promote and inspire the youth to be the part of music revolution.
Are you satisfied with the current trend of Nepali music?
The world is changing and so is Nepali music. It has been satisfying so far but there is a long way to go for us. Nepali music trend is changing and there have been experiments in music all over. There was a time when it was mostly influenced by western music but now folk elements as well as the folk sounds are being incorporated. A lot of opportunities as well as platforms are available to promote music. We need to learn from the west to promote music in the world. It’s time that our government work with new generation to preserve and promote music. After all music is an identity to represent yourself to the world.
What is the best and worst part about being a musician in Nepal?
The good part is that you get to explore music. You get to travel different places and meet new people and it’s always an interesting journey. You get to share your stories with the people. The bad part is that you might not get financial support as your friend will be doing with their business or work in services.
What do you do when you are not playing music?
Usually when I am not playing music I look after my factory, Project sarangi, where we manufacture sarangi for professional use. I experiment with lots of materials to produce better instruments. As we consider sarangi to be an instrument not used much in Nepali music, there are lots of experiments to be done.
Define yourself in three adjectives.
It’s very hard for me to describe myself. I would like readers and audience to define me.
Why did you choose to be a part of Kutumba and not any pop or rock bands which are comparatively more popular in Kathmandu?
Well, I started my journey as a sarangi player from Kutumba. Actually they chose me to be part of Kutumba and I feel I am fortunate for that opportunity. I was inspired by Kutumba’s vision of preserving and promoting Nepal’s folk culture. There are many musical bands in Nepal but Kutumba is a band that plays music to inspire people to hear and learn their own indigenous instrument and music.
Who are your favourite musicians/musical bands?
It’s really difficult to choose among musical inspirations I grew up with. The list of national and international musicians and bands I grew up listening to is big. From folk to rock and roll, RNB, hip-hop and blues, I listen to a range of music. Anything that musically touches me becomes my favourite.
Who is your role model in life?
For me, my role models are musicians that truly dedicated their life to music and are remembered for their musical creations.
Is it easy to earn a living as a musician in Nepal? Is it a good career option?
When we started as musicians, the situation was not satisfactory but things have vastly improved now. Now we can earn our living as musicians. There are so many opportunities in music industry. Today we can really convince parents to say that a child can make a very good career in music too.
If you had to choose between making good music and making good money which is would be your option?
Definitely, I would choose making good music. Good money will take you so far but good music lasts beyond lifetime.
Do Nepali people have good taste in music? How is Nepali music scenario different from international music scenario?
Well, Nepali audience’s musical taste is broadening but still many have herd mentality. When we travel abroad the audience remain patient and they are open to different musical genres. But people over here listen to popular music only. Nepali audience hesitate to accept new trends of music.
What do you think the musical scene in Nepal will look like 10 years from now?
In 10 years of time the music will be global. Digital sound will trump instrumental sound. There will be cross cultural combinations in music.
Tell us about your best concert so far.
Every concert has been best for me and offers me new lessons each time. But I still remember my first ever concert with Kutumba at Janaki Temple in Janakpur. In my first ever concert I got to perform in front of more than 7,000 people. My heart skipped a bit when people vigorously applauded my solo performance.
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