Nepal’s only folk musical instrument museum struggles to save rare instrumentsGlobal Voices

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Nepalese Folk Musical Instrument Museum in the premises of the Tripureshwor Mahadev temple in Kathmandu. Image by Sanjib Chaudhary. Used with permission.

While the Tripureshwor Roundabout in Nepal sees traffic all day long, a short walk down the busy road is the Tripureshwor Mahadev Temple, one of the largest temples in the Kathmandu Valley. Within the temple premises is a lesser-known museum housing rare Nepalese folk musical instruments collected across Nepal. Despite the cultural importance of the museum’s collection, it is currently embroiled in a legal battle to keep its doors open to the public. If the founder of the museum loses the case, he will have to move the museum to another location.

Ram Prasad Kadel, founder and curator of the Nepali Folk Musical Instrument Museum. Image by Sanjib Chaudhary. Used with permission.

Ram Prasad Kadel, founder and curator of the museum, has been collecting musical instruments since 1995 with his wife Nanda Sharma. His passion has taken him to the 77 districts of Nepal, and out of the 1350 different types of folk musical instruments in existence he has collected 650. He either buys old instruments that are not in use or orders locals to make new ones. “We never buy the musical instruments that are used in the villages,” he told Global Voices. “If we remove the used instruments, what will they play and how will the tradition continue? “

In this book by Ram Prasad Kadel, we find more than 360 musical instruments from # Nepal, explaining their origin, how they are made and how they can be played.

“Our folk musical instruments are very simple,” he added. “They are made from everything in the surrounding area, and the music is inspired by the sound of waterfalls, the blast of the wind, the howling of cattle, and the chirping of birds, among others.” And nature also influences the shape of the instruments. For example, some of the instruments look like those found locally harro (black myrobalan), Rudraksha seeds (prayer beads), barley grains and even a cow’s tail. Hiti Manga, a musical instrument designed after water jets found in Kathmandu, produces music that resembles water filled into a pot from a spout.

However, all is not well with the museum. The musical instruments on display are in poor condition, and the museum itself receives only a handful of visitors, mostly ethnomusicological researchers. In addition to his misfortunes, Kadel was invited to leave the premises by the Guthi Sansthan, an independent institution responsible for taking care and managing the religious, cultural and social heritage of the country. According to some reports, Sansthan has agreed to rent its property to the University of Kathmandu and the latter plans to set up its music department there. Kadel filed a petition against him with the Kathmandu District Court.

As the legal battle continues, Kadel’s team has been busy documenting and digitizing Nepalese folk music. “We are planning to hand over the museum, registered as a non-governmental organization (NGO), either to the government of Nepal or to Tribhuvan University,” he said. While it will take time and money to move the museum around and take care of the delicate instruments, he hopes he doesn’t need to.

Here is a look at some of the rare folk musical instruments on display at the museum:

Murchunga. Image by Saccha Karki. Used with permission from the museum.

Binaayo. Image by Saccha Karki. Used with permission from the museum.

Ek-tare. Image by Saccha Karki. Used with permission from the museum.

Jor murali. Image by Saccha Karki. Used with permission from the museum.

Pungi. Image by Saccha Karki. Used with permission from the museum.

Dharma dandi. Image by Saccha Karki. Used with permission from the museum.

Madal. Image by Saccha Karki. Used with permission from the museum.

Nekku. Image by Saccha Karki. Used with permission from the museum.

Ranasinhaa. Image by Saccha Karki. Used with permission from the museum.

Hiti manga. Image by Saccha Karki. Used with permission from the museum.

Tri-taal. Image by Saccha Karki. Used with permission from the museum.



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