Green tunes

Rabindra Pokharel


Many of us believe that if there’s heaven on earth it’s Switzerland or some faraway land where we’ve never been. Reviving 25 years of memories of Nepal comes Claudio Peruchini aka Jhilke Dai all the way from the Alpine nation to remind us of a heaven here that we’ve failed to notice. Claudio Perucchini first visited Nepal 25 years ago as a research student of anthropology from Zurich University, Switzerland. “Nepal is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. The picturesque variance of landscapes and above all the intermingling of rich indigenous cultures and ages old tradition that have been witness to the simultaneously bourgeoning westernisation makes Nepal all the more mystifying,” says he. As a young student of anthropology and music ethnology, Perucchini chose Nepal as his research destination. The tale of the majestic Himalayan country and Mt Everest had been a mystery he always wanted to unravel since his childhood. He succumbed to his temptations when he was given to choose among the list of countries he could visit. He first visited Nepal when he was a 22-year-old student of the university. He concedes, “Nothing more remarkable has ever happened to my life.” And all these 25 years he’s gloried relishing in the pristine beauty of the country.

During his first visit to Nepal, he stayed in the capital, Kathmandu for almost three months and wondered whether his research would come to an end then and there. Fortunately, a tour guide suggested that he take a visit to other parts of the country if he wished to have a deeper understanding of how Nepalis lived. He then moved on to Pokhara and then Baglung (capital of the erstwhile Baisi Rajya), where he stayed with a Brahman family whose house overlooked the tribal community of Magars and Gurungs in the vicinity. Music has been a part of the lives of tribals since ages. It seems that it was here that Jhilke Dai first learnt the

rudiments of folk melody. He says, “Nepal has melodies for all situations, occasions and festivities.” Though music formed an inseparable part of their lives, the Brahmins and Chetris were a class apart. They looked down upon the practices of tribal communities whose lives were inextricably linked with music. In the ensuing periods, Perucchini discovered the tremendous social significance of music in Nepal and took to the course of understanding Nepali music before he actually ventured into his actual project. Enchanted by the tremendous variations and the beauty of folk tradition, he submitted himself to the task of preserving them. He recorded hundreds of songs during his different visits to different regions of Nepal and quite a many of them are on the verge of extinction. He has frequently visited Nepal since his first visit to Nepal 25 years ago and each time he rediscovers a new Nepal. He’s learnt to speak excellent Nepali and sings the folk melodies in his excellent Nepali. He expertly discriminates between the different types of folk melodies Yanimaya, Salejo, Bina Salejo, Churka, Ghyaure and, of course, Dohori, which is the most popular form of Nepali folk music in the country these days. “Without learning folk music and tradition it would have been impossible for me to understand Nepal and I’d have never collected so many facts about Nepal,” he says. During his last visit he’s recorded a few dohori songs, most of them rendered in his own voice. “Thamelbazaar”, “Sora barse josh” and “Kalo chasma laune keti ko” are some of his most popular recordings aired through Radio Nepal.

Claudio wants to resuscitate the long forgotten folk tunes of yore. He has some of the rarest collections of folk tunes he collected decades ago. He wants to list the rarest of melodies in Nepal Save The Heritage foundation. “ I wish that this tradition which is so full of variations should continue forever. And every Nepali should be proud of it.”