Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sarangi Day 2008

There are 8 hour power blackouts in Kathmandu these days, and fuel rationing makes transport in the city, a little more tricky than usual. But we're proud to say that the Gandharba musicians and MMP have brought this celebration of traditional Nepali music back to life. We hope it will continue, with the Gandharbas being able to hold Sarangi Day independently in the future.

The day began at the Russian Cultural Center with several speakers and researchers of Nepali music presenting for a Nepali audience. The Gandharba Culture & Arts Organization requested a few members of Nepali Parliament to speak to the Nepali audience, since the GCAO is lobbying for some parliamentary representation in the new government. Like all politicians, they sure can talk, but how much they'll really do for lower caste dalit groups like the Gandharbas remains to be seen.

Anyway we can't let the politicians take up too much time...On to the music! This year on the stage we had Barta Gandharba (Tikki Maya's sister for long-time MMP fans, one only 3 women sarangi players we've met), a group from Jyapa in Eastern Nepal, Palpa's Hum Bahadur Gandharba, and several other groups. A great turnout, and fantastic music from all the artists, including several styles I hadn't heard before. But the most outstanding performance of the day goes to virtuoso sarangi player Shyam Nepali and his fusion band (tabla, guitar, bansuri flute). I'll have that mp3 up soon as I can.

Several radio and tv reporters showed up for their soundbites, hopefully a few of em can give the Gandharbas some airtime here in Kathmandu.

In the evening, we held a fundraising concert at the North Palace Restaurant in the tourist district of Thamel featuring encore performances by Rubin, Barta, Hum Bahadur, the Jyapa Gandharbas and several other singers, dancers, and performers...and a heck of alot of dahl baht...The turnout was amazing, and we think we got the music and message out to quite a few foreigners this evening, and had a blast doing so.

We were extremely lucky to have 4 elderly musicians from the countryside with us for the event. Gopilal Gandhari, Akal Bahadur Gandharba, and Lal Bahadur Gandharba all made the trip from the Gorkha area. But everyone's favorite was Hum Bahadur Gandharba all the way from Palpa. With these old-timers in Kathmandu, we were able to bring them to a studio to record a few of the songs they don't want their grandkids to forget. Click the flash player below to hear Hum Bahadur performing the embittered love song Honi Maya:


Another performer at Sarangi Day, whose songs and face are well-known in Nepal (if not his name) is 17 year old Rubin Gandharba. His politically-inspired songs, often landing him in jail for performances at the democracy protests of recent years have some people calling him the Bob Dylan of Nepal. We'll try to get an interview of him on the MMP blog one of these days...

Huge thanks to Ashley Stone and Laura Brennan for volunteering, to Raj Kumar Gandhari and Buddha Gandharba for their outstanding efforts in this year's Sarangi Day festival, to all the Gandharbas who volunteered, and to our donors for making it all possible.

In other news, we're donating some sarangi (fiddles) and madal (drums) to a local Kathmandu orphanage's music education program. Check out our new friends at Another few days in Kathmandu and Jake's off to Dehli to edit the film with Monga. Stay tuned for clips for A Higher Lonesome Sound in the coming months.

To our friends back home in the USA: We've got some new t-shirts on their merry way back to the states, as well as a bunch of instruments. For donations of $50 or more, you can now choose between two tshirt designs (pics coming soon). For donations of $100 or more, we'll send you a full-size Nepali sarangi or madal drum as an incentive gift. See the bottom of the page for donation information.


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