THE SWEET SYMPHONIES OF KATHMANDU STRING ENSEMBLE
A lot of us say that we can’t live without music. We begin the day with it and end with it. Be it karaoke in the car or furniture while working, music is inseparable in our lives. But does loving music just mean listening to the same few songs until we’re tired of it? Does it mean just enjoying the top 100s? Does it just mean being a devotee to a specific genre?
See, there’s a lot more to music than just the ones we hear on pop streams. And a lot of it comes from a genre that’s ancient to us modern humans; classical music. But we as Nepalese are not that aware of it.
But then again, that’s about to change. Enter Kathmandu String Ensemble.
WHAT IS KATHMANDU STRING ENSEMBLE?
We are a group of youngsters who have been playing string orchestra for the first time in Nepal. We’re a self-motivated lot that’s working to promote classical music to the new generation, and then elevate it from there on.
WHAT IS THE MOTIVE BEHIND YOU ALL COMING TOGETHER?
The genre of orchestral music is something that has not been explored in Nepal. And we’re hereto change that. Or at least try to. See, all of us in the group love classical music, and to us, the next logical step would be to spread that love. Our love for the music bound us together into a family and we just want to let others know that this exists and is something we all should appreciate.
Coming in secondary to that is to just grow as musicians ourselves, and enable others to explore the musical side of themselves.
AND WHAT’S THE STORY BEHIND THE NAME?
Basically, we had found each other though our love for classical music. We began practicing with each other and once we started to feel that we could make this bigger, we thought of doing a flash mob. However, unlike the usual flash mob where there’s dance and all, our idea was to simply introduce the instruments and the music to the general audience. We had found out that most people don’t know what a violin is, what a cello is, or what sort of melodies stream out from them. All we wanted to do was to let the people know.
So, we put forward this idea to Labim Mall and when it did get solidified during the New Year, we had to come up with a name because it would be weird if someone were to ask us what we were. Now, perhaps this was a spur of the moment, but since we’re Kathmandites, the name Kathmandu String Ensemble just stuck.
“WE ARE A PART OF THE AUDEAMUS MUSIC FOUNDATION WHICH IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PROMOTION OF CLASSICAL MUSIC IN NEPAL.”
SO HOW DOES ALL OF THIS WORK?
In actuality, Kathmandu String Ensemble is just a small initiative in the grand scheme of things. We are a part of the Audeamus Music Foundation which we established after the flash mob. But this foundation is responsible for the promotion of classical music in Nepal. This goes beyond the exchange and practice of musical instruments, but an overall education. In addition to that, going beyond just strings, we work with concert flutes, clarinets, trumpets, train musicians in these instruments, and work towards putting together impressive concerts.
We rehearse every Saturday, and anyone can join us. There’s no price tag on practicing music with us. But if you wish to be a member, there is a certain charge. But it’s a lifetime coverage; you become a member for life. This amount goes into the foundation, and that helps us with our functions.
NOW AS MUSIC HAS EVOLVED, INSTRUMENTS HAVE CROSSED GENRES. VIOLINS CAN BE FOUND IN STYLES FROM ROCK TO HIP HOP. BUT WHY STICK TO CLASSICAL?
As mentioned, classical music is something we fell in love with. So, it is only logical that we stick to it. But the reason why we fell in love in the first place is because of the richness the genre exudes. In addition to that, it’s one of those genres that’s easy to listen to while giving musicians plenty of room to hone their skills.
But just because we love this genre doesn’t mean that we stick to just this. Our performance depends on the audience we have. It depends on the situations we play for. Sometimes it’s a small venue with a limited number of crowd, sometimes it’s full-fledged concert. Sometimes we need to play to wow the audience, sometimes we need to educate them.
By doing so we feel that we preserve and promote the tradition and origin of these beloved instruments, a legacy that’s as ancient as 600 years ago, yet demonstrate the enduring possibilities of them. We love to see the sonic results of playing contemporary songs on our instruments, such as Bipul Chettri’s Asaar, and 1974AD’s Yo Maan Ta Mero Nepali Ho. On the flip side, we also love to play traditional Newari tunes. We feel that these songs help educate the people a bit more easily for they are accustomed to these melodies without needing to know the instruments.
SPEAKING OF THE AUDIENCE, HOW HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN FROM THEM SO FAR?
They have been really supportive. They have all been positive and even the senior musicians have encouraged us to keep doing what we do. We are bringing in a tradition that’s not native to ours, but the responses of the people who have seen us perform are really uplifting. Even the first timers who have never before heard of classic music come up to us saying that they had a profound experience. We have had people who tell us that our music has touched their soul. Some say we’ve given them peace.
Sure, we may lack the skills and quality of the orchestras out in Europe or the sort, but we are trying. And people complimenting us for our attempts not only makes us smile, but encourage us to do more of what we do and get better at it.
SO, WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HAVE IN STORE FOR KATHMANDU STRING ENSEMBLE?
We as Audeamus Music Foundation are currently trying to work on a project. This project is going to be in partnership with an organization called Impact Schools. They run two schools in Kalikot, and what we are trying to do with them is to reach out and help them express themselves with classical music. The schools are in remote locations where the people have no idea what a violin is, nor what it’s like to be musically expressive. If we enable them to be more vocal about themselves through music, we believe that this could be a great way for their development of character.
Besides that, like we said, we intend to promote classical music among the new generation of Nepalese people. We have a Facebook page and we’d love to hear from anyone who shares our passion. Anyone can join us and be involved in our small yet growing community of music lovers.
“WE MAY LACK THE SKILLS AND QUALITY OF THE ORCHESTRAS OUT IN EUROPE OR THE SORT, BUT WE ARE TRYING. AND PEOPLE COMPLIMENTING US FOR OUR ATTEMPTS NOT ONLY MAKES US SMILE, BUT ENCOURAGE US TO DO MORE OF WHAT WE DO AND GET BETTER AT IT.”
INTERVIEWED by TNM Team | PHOTOGRAPHED by Gaurav Xhompate Sunuwar