Classical adaptations

"It is dawning on them that without a sound classical base, their precision and mastery in singing is limited."

— Sesh Narayan Shrestha


Nepali music maestros often mention classical music as a common property of South Asia. Even the Vedas talks classical music, they say. However, they agree that the present day Nepal could not develop on its musical legacy though it is said to have found heydays during the Rana regime. However, it looks like things are changing.

Yes, classical music today is trying to stage a good comeback, among others, by moulding itself to suit people’s palate and trying to develop a distinct Nepali flavour. Youngsters aspiring for vocal prowess are also contributing for its revival. Why?

“It is dawning on them that without a sound classical base, their precision and mastery in singing is limited,” reasons Sesh Narayan Shrestha, chairman of Kirateshwor Sangeet Ashram, which has been organising classical music evenings every full moon for the last 17 years.

Besides, some maestros highlight that youngsters today are realising that classical music, although it gives a directional grammar for music, is not at all fettering, as the misconception goes. In fact, it provides immense opportunities to exercise your creativity in various genres of music. No wonder young folk make a good crowd thronging classical music concerts regularly held at various venues in the Capital.

Regarding the trend to develop uniqueness in music Shrestha says, “As the interest in classical music rose more here, to establish the music base more strongly, one had to take help from India, where classical music has developed like in no other country. The Nepali flavour was less, although the fundamentals of classical music are the same everywhere. Now, our artistes are trying to develop a separate flavour in their music, for example, by singing in Nepali bandish (lyrics) penned by noted writers and also playing traditional instruments with classical ones.”

He also feels that some well known artistes have popularised the classical mode of singing to

some extent. A young flautist Sunil Pariyar throws a light-hearted question, “If I go on playing like the famous Hari Prasad Chaurasia, where is my identity?”

This is why he wants to play in a new way that brings out his uniqueness. And this want of distinctness, coupled with the demands of the market, seem to have largely contributed to this interesting development in the country’s classical music landscape.

Some musicians are also adapting to the taste of the mass, which seems to be popularising classical music more, by giving, for example, classical rendering to popular songs. The length of the music has also been lessened in some occasions, like by the band Sukarma, mainly to make classical music seems less complex and more palatable to today’s audience.

“We should adapt ourselves to the changing times. If we don’t proceed this way, and keep limiting classical music to just what our forefathers have taught, our music will be endangered,” opines Dr Dhurbesh C Regmi, sitar maestro and Sukarma member. “Taking classical music as a rigid, complex and only meant for a select few should change. Some theorists even consider popular music under the domain of classical music. The latter gives a grammar that may be boring to some, but grammars are always boring in everything,” he argues.

Even as he is a proponent of change, Dr Regmi however insists that the fundamentals of classical music should first be well grasped and established.

He also agrees that Nepali musicians are increasingly trying to develop a different flavour in classical music that is in tune with the socio-cultural and geographical scenario of the country, which is good as it will also allow them to make a distinct mark outside the country.

“We can compete with music from outside this way,” Dr Regmi remarks, and reassures, “Classical music in Nepal is on the right track now and presents a good future.”

Classical nites around town

• First day of every Nepali month: Gurukul, Baneshwor; Krishna Mandir, Patan

• Second day of every Nepali month: Yalamaya Kendra, Patan Dhoka

• Ekadashi (month’s 11th day on Lunar calendar): Inside Pasupatinath temple area

• Chaturdashi (month’s 14th day on Lunar calendar): Ganeshlal Sangeet Pratisthan, Pulchowk

• Every new moon day: Ram Mandir, Gaushala

• Every full moon day: Kirateshwor Sangeet Ashram, Gaurighat

• First Friday of every Nepali month: Kala Nidhi Indira Sangeet Pathsala, Pulchowk

• Last Saturday of every Nepali month: Sangeet Sarovar, Phaika (Kapan)