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Folk music (git lok) is an important aspect of life in Nepal, particularly during festivals and holidays. The maadal double-ended drum plays a focal role, often accompanied by the harmonium, murali (bamboo piccolo) or bansuri (flute). A group member will strike up a familiar verse, and everyone joins in on the chorus.

Folk music traditions vary among the country’s many ethnic groups, but the true sound of Nepal can be said to be the soft, melodic and complex music of the hills. Jhyaure, the maadal-based music of the western hills, is the most popular. Selo, the music of the Tamangs, has also been adopted by many other communities. Meanwhile, the music of the Jyapu (Newari farmers) has a lively rhythm, though the singing has a nasal quality.

The improvised, flirtatiously duelling duets known as dohori, traditionally performed by young men and women of the hill tribes, have become the soundtrack of modern Nepal. You’ll hear them on personal radios, mobile ringtones and bus music systems, as well as in the dedicated rodi ghars (nightlife restaurants), and will soon come to recognize the repetitive back-and-forth, him-then-her structure, with wailing flutes and unison choruses punctuating each verse.

While folk music is by definition an amateur pursuit, there are two traditional castes of professional musicians: wandering minstrels (gaaine or gandarbha) who play the sarangi (a four-stringed fiddle), and damai, members of the tailor caste who serve as wedding musicians.

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