Nepali-Folk-and-Traditional-Musical-Instruments

If you look at the history of traditional Nepali musical instruments in Nepal, you’ll find them intertwined with Nepali culture and religion with different instruments used for different occasions, right from birth to death. Either listening to the song, humming the tunes or playing the instruments, from festivals to Jatras, marriages to cultural programs and many other ceremonies everyone loves music.

The research found that about 200 original instruments in Nepal. 108 types are still in play across the nation. Panche Baja is one of the famous musical instruments in Nepal. These musical instruments are popular not just in the country but also internationally and give a facet of Nepali culture and art.

Here we have listed out some of the popular Musical Instrument in Nepal:

Madal

Madal is a typical Nepali percussion instrument and is considered to be the backbone of most Nepali folk music. It is an integral part of festivals across communities in Nepal.

Typically, a wooden log is carved to form a hollow cavity, called Ghar. The heads of the drum are made of double-layered goat skins, and a black paste made of flour, iron filings, and egg is burned into a circular area in the center of each head. This circle, known as Khari, adds weight to the head and significantly alters the sound of the drum, giving it a bell-like quality. The two heads are slightly different in diameter. The smaller one is called Bhale and the larger one is called Pothi.

MadalA madal has a strap that goes around the waist of the person playing it. The heads vibrate to produce sound when struck.

Bansuri

Bansuri is a simple cylindrical tube of a uniform bore and associated with Nepali music since time immemorial. The Bansuri is made of a single length of bamboo and has six to eight open finger holes which represent the musical notes. Bansuri (literally Bamboo Flute) is a cylindrical tube made of bamboo with a uniform bore and closed at one end.

Traditional Nepali Musical Instruments Bansuri
Bansuri: Traditional Nepali Musical Instruments

Bansuri is held horizontally and is inclined downwards when it is played. To produce sound or melody one has to cover the finger holes with the fingers of the left and right hand. Variations in pitch are produced by altering the effective length of the air column. The range of the bansuri or flute is about 2 and a half octaves. Long bansuris or flutes have a rich, deep and mellow tone whereas in small bansuris or flutes the tone is high pitched.

Sarangi

Sarangi, traditional a folk musical instrument especially played by Gandharva community in Nepal. Gandharvas used to travel across the nation and go home to home to sing the song of current affairs. Thus, sarangi in Nepal has been used as an instrument used to convey the message and news across the country.

Sarangi
Sarangi: A traditional Nepali Musical Instrument

It resembles the violin in western culture. Sarangi in Nepal is played for so many years and has its own famous rhythms and tones. The string-instrument is made of a piece of wood, the bottom of which is made a hollow, and four pieces of strings are fastened tightly with four wooden nails fixed on the top of it. It is played by rubbing on a group of strings especially left and right repeatedly with a small stick, which is fastened with some strings.

Tungna

Tungna, a four-stringed instrument, somewhat similar to a sarangi, is also made up of a single piece of carved wood.

It resembles Sarangi but the two instruments are very different from each other. Tungna has a hollow cavity in the front which is covered by goat skin. In Sarangi, only the strings are made from sheep intestine, rest is all wood. The intestine of a carcass is pulled out after it’s rotten and woven to make the strings.

Tungna, Traditional Nepali Musical Instruments
Tungna: Traditional Nepali Musical Instrument

Initially, Tungna was played by the Tamang people during their festivities and special occasions and gatherings. But today, other communities also play Tungna to create a melodious sound alongside other instruments.

Jhyamta

Jhyamta is a traditional musical instrument that looks similar to a cymbal. In Nepal, the Kirati community uses Jhyamta with dhol in various cultural festivals such as Sakela, Chyabrung, Udhauli, Ubhauli and other social functions.

Loud but rhythmic to the ears, Jhyamta belongs to the Panche Baja musical family. The right way to play is by rubbing the plates with the right hand rising and the left hand descending clashing the two plates. Another version of Jhyamta is Bhushyah.

Murchunga

Murchunga is a musical instrument it consists of a flexible metal or bamboo tongue or reed attached to a frame and it produces a sound like Binayo. Murchunga is also practiced among Kiranti people. It is played by plucking its metal wire reed with the forefinger being gripped between the teeth. The volume of the note can be varied by breathing in and out.

Murchunga
Photo: Murchunga

Dhimay

Dhimay is a drum-like Nepali musical instrument. It is played by Newars in Jatras and festivals alongside other musical instruments. In the traditional context, Dhimay is played with idiophones of different types, depending on the local tradition. According to local legends, the instrument is believed to have been invented by Lord Shiva.

Dhimay
Dhimay: A traditional Nepali Musical Instrument

In Dhimay-ensembles, called Dhimaybaja, the drum is accompanied by cymbals like Bhushyah, Chushyah, and sometimes by Tai-nai, a gong-like instrument. Like Madal, Dhimay is made up of a single piece of wood but compared to madal, it produces a louder sound. These days, Dhimey is played as a sort of bass drum, accompanying western instruments like the guitar.

Jhyali

Jhyali is a traditional folk percussion instrument from Nepal. They are thinly walled, consist of a pair of round, metal plates, resembling cymbals, and are used in both folk and classical music in Nepal. Unlike most percussion instruments around the world, the Jhyali is played by rubbing the plates with the right hand rising and the left hand descending at the time when they clash.

These percussion instruments are made by a Nepali alloy that is called Pancha dhatu, which means five metals. The alloy consists of brass, copper, silver, zinc, and gold, and are usually made by blacksmiths.

Panche Baja

Panche Baja is called so because it is a group of five musical instruments played together. The five musical instruments in Panche Baja are.

1. Jhyamta/Jhurma (Cymbal):

It is one of the Panche Baja. It is a couple of flat round dish-like musical instruments made of brass or bronze, played by beating on each other.

2. Nagara/Damaha (A Drum):

It is also one of the Panche Baja. It is made of leather stretched over an end of a hollow copper bowl played by hitting with hands or sticks.

Panche Baja, Popular Nepali Musical Instruments
Photo: Panche Baja

3. Tyamko:

It is also one of the Panche Baja. It is similar to Damaha in shape but very small in size, played with two pieces of sticks called Gajo.

4. Sanai (A kind of clarinet):

It is one of the Panche Baja. It is made of a metal shaped like a pipe slightly bent forward has a couple of holes, reed on the top that you blow into.

5. Narsingha (A Trumpet):

It is one of Panache Baja Bajas made of two pieces of curved copper tube that is played by blowing air through its mouthpiece.

Khainjadi (A tambourine)

It is a kind of small drum made of skin stretched over an edge of rounded hollow wood. It is also played during Bhajan-kirtan by Hindus. Khaijadi is especially played on the occasion of singing a kind of song called Roila and Balam. Traditional Nepali-styled tambourine, completely hand-made using ox hide, seasoned wood, and bronze. Today it has been replaced by plastic tambourines.

khaijadi, Traditional Nepali Musical Instruments
Photo: khaijadi

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