Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rite of Spring Nepali style

KATHMANDU, March 1(Republica)
How many times in life do you get to see a jazz player sit cross-legged, like a yogi, and match the tunes of a sitar with his saxophone?

The matching was almost perfect and the overcrowded venue at Rashtriya Nachghar at Jamal did not feel the need to note the difference. It was Friday evening at Sukarma´s annual solo concert this year, featuring Mariano from the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory (KJC).

"I´ve done this a few times," a bespectacled Mariano grinned as his eyes moved to and fro in amusement. "Actually, very few times!" Then he looked at his shoes sheepishly, looked up and smiled before a bunch of admirers encircled him again.




Mariano was joined by Jan on piano in classic folk tunes at Sukarma’s annual gala affair. This time, the band performed nine fresh compositions they had prepared specially for this spring concert. The show christened "Ritu Shrawan" was light and soothing to match the mood of spring.

The trio of Dhrubesh Chandra Regmi, Shyam Chitrakar and Pramod Upadhyaya mesmerizing the crowd again is hardly any news anymore, especially with Shyam playing murchunga, a Nepali instrument akin to the Jewish harp. Rounds of applause swept the hall. Hari Maharjan, formerly of Nepathya fame, was on guitar and Umesh Pandit, his flute a few inches longer than his hand, put in a stupendous performance.

Shekhar Kharel, the event manager, said in his welcome speech that the concert was for "free people of free countries" as music cannot be confined by geography. He forgot to add a tiny detail that pulled many to the concert – the program was free of cost.

"We´re doing this because there is an immediate need to bring classical music to the attention of as many as possible," said Dhrubesh Chandra Regmi, the sitar maestro of the band. "Not many people still want to spend money to come and listen to classical."


Photo: Bijay Rai


Sharing his experience during a recent four-month European tour, Regmi added, "Since we´re sandwiched between India and China, people think Nepali music is a hybrid of the two." According to him, many people in other parts of the world mistake Indian music for music from India. "Indian music applies to all genres of music found between the Indian Ocean and the Himalayas," the doctorate in the history of Nepali music said.

Sukarma is often accused of distorting classical music. But Regmi says in defense that classical music is not necessarily what we´ve been playing for centuries. Dhrubesh, son of renowned sitar virtuoso Krishna C Regmi, added, "Like everything else classical music evolves too."

Sukarma is a folk and classical instrumental trio formed in 1997. Within a decade, the group has established itself as a major presence and represented Nepali music in many country including the USA, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, France, Austria and Germany, to name a few.

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