KATHMANDU: In 1957, late king Mahendra took a step towards preservation and promotion of creative art that included music along with drama and literature. As such the Nepal Academy of Literature And Art was formed which later became the Royal Nepal Academy. A new chapter was penned for what is now known as the Nepal Academy. Yet another attempt was made to bring Nepali music up high as the Nepal Academy of Music And Drama (NAMUDA) in Chauni was established in 2010.
However, with two academies in the country for music, Nepali music is still in a haze. Folk music, that is the identity of Nepal, has almost lost out to Western tunes, while some have resulted in extinction with the Nepali people losing their interest in the indigenous tunes. In this scenario what are these academies doing or are our expectations too hard on them?
Music is just not about entertainment but it also means one’s heritage that demands preservation. “The Nepal Academy was founded for music workshop, interaction and research as well as to have audience for Nepali music,” informs Prakash Sayami, a music critic.
When music was comparatively neglected in the academy, the need for a separate academy for music was felt. As a result NAMUDA came into the picture mainly focusing “to preserve folk music and conducting research” along with drama.
“Nepal Academy was mix of everything. Work related to music was conducted less as compared to literature,” veteran singer Amber Gurung, Chancellor of NAMUDA expresses citing “music is serious art, science, technology, and psychology and what not. And our folk music is so rich that it needs to be preserved. But then we lost many folk tunes as music couldn’t get due importance.” In addition, musical activities could not be continued freely and could not grab the attention like other art among the public.
However, it wasn’t decided on the spur of the moment as Gurung reveals, “We were trying to create a separate department for music for many years before it happened.” Music Director of Nepal Academy Sambhujeet Baskota recalls it was some 14 to 15 years ago.
One can’t deny that both academies have been established to “promote and preserve Nepali music — folk, classical and contemporary through various activities” and artistes and general public expect them to do so.
At the moment, the department of music at the Nepal Academy has five members while many instruments like maadal, violin lie idle inside cupboards. Instruments like piano, accordion and thungana are gathering dust. Unfortunately, it is this same academy that used to be lively before it was divided into different academies for varied art.
As per Sayami and Baskota, lots of activities were held to “promote and preserve dance, music, drama and literature”.
“Opera and ballad were performed. They have performed Malati Mangale and opera like Sakuntala among others. Satya Mohan Joshi has done researches on folk tunes of Karnali region,” states Sayami. And many artistes made their names from events of the Academy.
With time, music gigs fizzled out and Baskota points out, “The work that the Nepal Academy used to do for the betterment of music, NAMUDA is responsible for it now.”
According to him, Nepal Academy is responsible only for the promotion of literature. And his team is waiting for opportunity and occasions like annual days where the Nepal Academy can perform different musical activities. Nevertheless Baskota expresses, “Even though we are not the academy for music, we can still come up with musical compositions but only if academicians here make plans and policies for us.”
On the other hand, Gurung shares NAMUDA’s work as to “study, research, revive and preserve unique folk tune, folk music, folk dance in different regions of the country” and producing authentic results for disseminating it afterwards.
Meanwhile their other programmes and policies include distribution of awards and prizes, establish library and museum, confer fellowships and scholarships and organise seminars, conferences, festivals, competitions in the field of music across the country.
It is a list of activities that can bring about a better change in Nepali music. Since the inception of NAMUDA, it has carried out varieties of activities — seminars on various folk music and research among others.
But they should not remain just on paper.
The question is — is what NAMUDA doing enough?
Prem Dhoj Pradhan believes that both the academies have not worked enough. He says, “Nepal’s music is very rich. They should come up with plans to preserve them. And good Nepali artistes are moving out. It takes time, but Nepali music has to be preserved. They should search for talented artistes around the country who don’t have opportunities. And they should provide work for musicians with projects.”
However, if enough budget is provided, Gurung confirms, “We could have done many things if we had facilities that we wanted.” He mentions that there is need for scholars, researchers and technology.
Adding to Pradhan’s concerns, singer Komal Oli puts her heart out as, “We can see once in a while on news about happening of very few events and that is not enough.”
On the other hand, Gurung is of opinion that their job has been misunderstood. “We have come across artistes asking us to buy instruments and some requesting to provide a hall for them to conduct programmes. That is not our work! We are academicians,” says Gurung.
Moreover, Sayami feels that new academy should have built a hall even before their office. In short, Sayami describes their responsibilities as “to inform, to educate and to insulate”.
And to this Oli feels that “the demands of the artistes are justified because government at least should provide something to the artistes.” If such demands are for preserving culture and music, Baskota feels, “Why not? But one should know what academy is before putting up their needs and demands”.