preserving musical art project sarangi with kiran nepali
Kiran Nepali is a 9th generation of a long line of sarangi players based in Kirtipur. He is a core member
or Kutumba who has been enchanting the audience with Bipul Chhetri and the Travelling Band. And
now, sticking to his roots, he has initiated a humble project known as Project Sarangi.
The project is an effort to revive the instruments that have been scarce and on the verge of extinction
today. The attachment they have for these instruments, and by extension culture, can be felt in their
slogan: Let’s Make Sarangi Cool Again. Many times overlooked for being out dated, Mr. Nepali seeks to
change that mentality by appreciating the older generations and making a few tweaks here and there and
playing the beloved sarangi differently.
Mr. Nepali does say that these are little tweaks, but the effect he has made has been seismic. From
getting closer to the youth and organize a lot of events, to also manufacturing sarangies themselves,
the Project has been able to construct a whole curriculum with a roster full of talented teachers well
equipped in Eastern and Western music vocabulary. Read on to find more about this exceptional effort
to preserve an essential culture.
WHERE DID THE IDEA COME FROM?
I started playing sarangi very late, when I was 22 years old. And when I did start there were only a handful of sarangi players. And they were all very stuck up on the traditional way of playing with no intention of innovating. Sure, there is nothing wrong with playing traditional, but since technology has advance and our lives are becoming more sophisticated, I personally think that we should keep up with it. In my view, that is how we can keep things from becoming obsolete. And I guess it has a lot to do with my personal journey as a sarangi player.
See, I was already a guitar player before I learned sarangi. I had picked it up one day and due to my guitar knowledge, I was able to learn it quite fast. In fact, I had my first concert with Kutumba only six months after I first started playing it. I got a good platform and was able to tour with the band, and that enabled me to go with the instrument both professionally and passionately.
Initially, was also following the traditional style of sitting down while playing, just sticking to the basic tune. But eventually, found myself trying to evolve, to be something more, say, modern. So, I started playing Western songs on my sarangi and that is when I really saw that there was potential in the instrument for the youth. The answer was to experiment. And with that enthusiasm, I came up with Project Sarangi. And along with it, what I have come to understand is that playing an instrument starts out as a hobby, but overtime it gets lost because it sustain life financially as a profession. So, we are also trying to make it better for musicians of any kind.
I ASKED A STUDENT ONCE IF HE KNEW THE SARANGI AND HE TOLD ME THAT IT WAS KIND OF A VIOLIN. SO, I WANT TO DIVERT A PART OF THAT FOCUS INTO A STREAM THAT’S FULL OF OUR OWN NATIVE STYLE AND INSTRUMENTS.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE PROJECT SARANGI?
Project Sarangi is about inspiring and motivationg the youth to play the sarangi, and other instruments. In Nepal, there are a total of one thousand, three hundred, and forty five instruments, and we can hardly name twenty. I strongly feel that they all need to make a comeback so that our country can move forward in the musical scene, and thus, the world. It is a sustainable effort to represent the dying culture, resurrect it, and bring it to the lime light.
HOW HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN?
There are always two sides, but fortunately, the project has received a lot of positive response over the negative ones.
I think the new techniques and sounds have had a positive effect on the youth. If we look at even as far as five years, there were no sarangi players, but now we have around 45 players in this school alone. This really makes me, the students, and the audience hopeful about this lost art.
Appreciating our work, some other organizations have become inspired
and have taken the initiative to come up with more projects like Project Tungna and Project Maadal.
IN NEPAL, THERE ARE A TOTAL OF ONE THOUSAND, THREE HUNDRED, AND FORTY FIVE INSTRUMENTS,
AND WE CAN HARDLY NAME TWENTY. I STRONGLY FEEL THAT THEY ALL NEED TO MAKE A COMEBACK SO THAT OUR COUNTRY CAN MOVE FORWARD IN THE MUSICAL SCENE.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR PROJECT SARANGI?
There is a lot of planning happening at the moment. The first thing we are doing is school and college workshops. I was a guitar mentor for a couple of years and from that experience I came to know that music classes tend to just focus on the Western style of music. I asked a student once if he knew the sarangi and he told me that it was kind of a violin. So, I want to divert a part of that focus into a stream that’s full of our own native style and instruments. And also, present the sarangi in a different way, because although they might know the history behind it after we explain it, it will be harder to relate to if we just teach them about the traditions.
So, we want to teach them the newer songs in an attempt to keep them interested. These things do trigger the mind of the children, enabling them to stay passionate. We have been doing Sarangi Bhela, where sarangi players from all generations sit down and have a discussion about what can be done in the field of promoting the instrument and folk music. And so, we plan on doing more of that. Additionally, we do Sarangi Month every year during the month of March and will keep doing that. All of what we do contributes towards the preservation and the promotion of this art form. Hence, whatever we come up with in the coming days will be fueled by the motives of this very intention.