Dispatches from Nepal: Music is everywhere
“One melody can make you feel sadness. Feel happiness. Feel anger. Feel sunset.”
I took pause. “How can a single melody feel like sunset?” I asked him.
“Just listen,” he said. And he took out his sirangi and played.
It felt like sunset. The notes turned into a burning orange hue, drifting into the horizon. Tints of red and gold lighting up the sky. The marker of another day come and gone.
It really did feel like sunset.
Kiran thinks music is soul. I think music is a universal language.
A powerful drum beat. A simple haunting solitary note. The sounds of hundreds singing in concert. It is this lovely and intoxicating thing that connects us, whether we hail from Toronto or Kathmandu.
Friedrich Nietzsche said “without music, life would be a mistake.”
Nietzsche was a wise man.
In Nepal, music is everywhere. And with more than 50 different ethnicities in the country, there is an overwhelming number of sounds and songs to choose from that vary from region to region.
While shooting a documentary about maternal health, music was not necessarily on the top of my shot list. But while traveling, the melodies found me. From children singing, to monks chanting.
And with a camera in hand, it just had to be captured. Here are a few video clips of particularly heart-warming encounters with music in Nepal. They make me smile every time I watch them. I hope they make you smile too.
We spent time with these wonderful children while filming in Jamunai Mathyapur, a small village in Nepal's Terai. I am told this is a very famous song in the region.
It's called 'Jila Top Lagela', loosely translated as "top of the district." The song is about a boy singing to a girl. He says that when she puts her lipstick on she is the most beautiful in the district. It’s sung in the Bhojpuri dialect.
The poverty in Nepal’s Terai is nothing short of astounding. Food and water are in short supply. Most families live on less than $1 a day. These children had little in the way of material goods. But what they did have was music, and no one could take that away from them.
Processions are a way of life
Many people have told me that Nepal is the land where Lord Shiva meets Lord Buddha. A confluence of Hindus and Buddhists, joining together in worship. Processions and offerings are a daily way-of-life.
Here, a group of Hindus are delivering an offering of rice, grain and flowers to the Gods. It is considered an act of devotion and self-surrender.
We passed them while driving to a maternal
health camp near Charikot in the district of Dolakha. They kindly
invited us to participate in the procession.
These women had come to receive or learn about treatment options at a temporary health camp set up in remote Timal, near Gorkha. We had finished shooting for the day, but scrambled to get the camera unpacked again after they broke out into song and dance.
Before we shot this I asked Dr. Molly Verdegaal, a Dutch doctor who was running this camp, why she does this kind of work. At the time she answered, “because this work is my heart.” After these women had left for the day she came up to me and asked rhetorically, “did you see that? That, right there. That was my heart.”
Music. Call it soul. Call it heart. Call it a universal language. Call it anything you want.
It is a great connector, and surely one of
the most wonderful things humanity has to offer.
Jayme Poisson is a Master of Journalism student at Carleton University. She has just returned to Canada after trekking through Nepal during April and May while making a documentary about delivering maternal health services to remote and conflict-affected areas. In mid-June she will join the Star's summer intern program.