HIMALAYAN NEWS SERVICE
KATHMANDU: It is a very ancient instrument which prevailed even before language was invented,” says researcher of folk instruments Ram Prasad Kadel about the “natural instrument of leaf ” — Paluwa.
Easily available without having to be made or bought, it is not like any other instrument. Instead it is an instrument made of leaves, neither too young nor too mature, mainly from the trees of Chilaune, Rudra, Sal, Jamuna and Teedhu. It is played by blowing the leaves with the mouth through the lips.
A leaf has to be longer than thrice the width of a thumb as well as smooth and thin.
Kadel says paluwa is mostly played in the villages where it was developed by shepherds. “I believe it was discovered because with the sound produced by the leaves when blown, it was easy to communicate. It was initially started as a code language which later developed as music,” he shares.
It is one of the important instruments of mid-hills of Nepal and “produces the music of sorrow and love”.
“In ancient times shepherds used paluwa to express about their lives. They also used the same to describe the qualities of their love in a subtle way. But now little remains of this kind of music of paluwa,” Kadel shares.
Besides the original tune, paluwa also produces different tunes of many songs. One can play different notes as well as ‘Sa Re Ga Ma...’
Kadel adds that the paluwa sounds better if other sounds like birds’ sound are included. But like every folk instrument, it has a limited range “neither too high nor too low” which is why every generation can play the instrument.
But it is not that easy to play this leaf instrument. In the initial stage of paluwa lessons, one might get lots of headache as it takes a lot of energy to blow out.
“It is a little difficult but with practice, one can perfect it,” Shiva Bhattarai says. Bhattarai plays paluwa in a restaurant and he shares that many people are astonished to find out that beautiful music can be produced from a leaf. “It is the foreigners who are intrigued by the instrument,” he adds.
Many people in the Valley are not aware about this instrument as paluwa comes from the village and has major paluwa musicians there. Most importantly it is not on the verge of extinction.
“Paluwa playing is mostly found in the villages during different village activities like cattle grazing. Leaves are easily available there. But in the city, the perfect leaves are hard to find and so are the people playing them,” states Bhattarai.
However, paluwa is one of the folk instruments that is taught by the Music Museum of Nepal in the Valley and Subhash Chandra Bista is one of the folk instrument enthusiasts who is keen in learning folk
Bista claims, “It was my interest towards folk instrument that led me to paluwa.”
Other paluwa players include Naradh Mani, Birwal Shrestha and Laxman Adhikari. And Bhattarai cites, “I think it is because of the environment of a city that paluwa is not popular here.”
Above all, there are four different seasons and it is difficult to find the leaves in the same state all the time to which Kadel provides a perfect suggestion. He says, “Boil the paluwa leaves for some time and dry them in the shade. And when you need them, take them out. And soak them in water for one to two hours before you use them. Doing so will ensure that the note of the instrument does not change.”