Napalese Musical Instruments
MusicThe Newars are very much rich in traditional, classical and folk music as in dances. Various music and dance events take place in different parts of Newar societies on the occasion of different festivals. In fact, the Newars are so duly intermixed with music and dances that not a single festival, feast or ceremony, 'from womb to tomb', passes without a music or music and dances.
i) Membranophones - Dhimay, Dhah, Paschima, NayaKhin etc.
ii) Idiophones - Bhusyah, Chhusyah, TainNain etc.
iii) Chordophones - Piwancha
iv) Aerophones - Muhali, Nekoo, Bansuri etc.
Mostly used musical instruments in Newar societies are membranophones, which are generally accompanied with idiophones and aerophones.
Dhimay is the most common musical instruments amongst the Newars. It is considered as the oldest musical instruments amongst the membranophones. Even though there is no evidence that Mahadeva invented this instruments (as legend says) but there is evidence to support that it dates back to Kirat period. It resembles the Chyabrung of Kirat Rais and Dhola of Tharus. Dhimay is played in almost al ceremonial marches by the Jyapus. They are fund lost in dancing with deep rumble of Dhimay in festivals.
Dhimay is constructed from cylindrical hollowed tree trunk with leather pads at both of its ends. Nowadays, Dhimays are frequently made of brass and other metals. the general size of Dhimay is 20" in length and 16" in diameter .Its left hand hide which sounds much higher is known as Nasah, whilst another hide is called Mankah or Haima. Mankah carries a tunning paste inside. Dhimays are of two kinds: bigger Ma Dhimay and smaller Dhahcha Dhimay or Yalaypoh Dhimay.
Dhimay has capacity to produce a multiple reverberating echo, which is its main feature.
Dhimay is accompanied with Bhusyah (a pair of cymbals). Chhusyah and TainNain is also played in some places. [Audio]
Gunla ( a month according to Nepal Era ) is taken as Buddhist holy month. As Dhah is played during Gunla it is also termed as 'Gunla Bajan'.It looks similar to Dhimay but is Slightly smaller than Dhimay.
Dhah is constructed from cylindrical hollowed tree trunk slightly smaller than that of Dhimay. Tuning paste is stuck at the inner side of Mankah. Tuning paste is made of castor seeds, mustard oils etc.
Besides in the Gunla month, Dhah is also practiced in different dances and other different festivities.
Dhah is accompanied with Bhusyah (pair of cymbals), Tah (smaller cymbals), Muhali (clarinet/trumpets) or Bansuri (flute ). Ponga is also played in Bhairab dance of Thimi. [Audio]
Myth says, Paschima was invented by lord Krishna. This instrument is also known as Mridanga. It is a double headed drum with tuning paste in on hide (Nasah) and dough made of wheat flour is plastered in the other hide (Mankah) before playing.
Paschima is accompanied with Baboocha (thinner cymbals), Tah (thicker cymbal), Muhali (shwam) or Bansuri (flute).
It is another musical instrument used in many rituals. This instruments is mainly played by the Khadgis, however, this instrument is also played by other castes. It is also called as 'NayaKhin' or 'Dyah Khin'. Since it is also played in funeral processions it is also known as 'Seeh Bajan' (funeral drum). Long long ago, there was a tradition to play fanfare on NayaKhin to proclaim the news. In the Malla period, proclaiming by beating of NayaKhin was widely spread.
The NayaKhin looks similar to Dhah but it is smaller. It is constructed from hollowed tree trunk of an average size of 14" length and 7" diameter.
NayaKhin is played by producing a rubbing vibrato in Mankah hide.
Whilst playing as the 'Seeh bajan ', NayaKhin is accompanied with Chhusyah and Kaha. Similarly, whilst playing as the 'Gunla bajan' Tah is also played and instead of Kaha, Muhali is played. [Audio]
DapaKhin has various names: Yakah Khin, Joh khin, Lala Khin, Deshi Khin, for instance. It is double headed drum with tuning paste in both hides. Dapa Khin is mainly played in Dapa Bhajans (traditional hymns). If a single Khin is played it is called Yakah Khin and if two Khins are played, they are called as 'Joh Khin'.
Dapa Khin is accompanied with Tah, Baboo and Bansuri (flute) or Muhali (Shwam).
Koncha Khin is single headed drum resembling Tabla. It is also termed as 'Khicha Khwah Khin' as it is said that dogs start to cry when Koncha Khin is played.
Koncha Khin is mainly played in marriage processions and accompanied with baboo, Tah and Baya or Muhali.
Also known as Kwatah Khin, Pasta Khin is a combination of Dapha Khin and NayaKhin. Ancient stone images of people playing Pastah Khin signifies its use since ancient time.
Pastah Khin is an important instrument in Bajrayan sect of Buddhism. Pastah Khin is accompanied with Ponga and Tah.
Nagara is a kettle drum played with two sticks. This instrument has been described in purans as Dundubhi, Dundhu, Dundhub, Bheri, Adamber etc. It is often played in pair, known as Joh Nagara. Nagara is also played in Panchai Baja as Damaha. It is too played in Mahakali Dance.It is accompanied with Chhusyah and Muhali.
This two headed drum with tuning paste at both ends belongs to magar community, however it has become an important part in Newar folk music. It is said that there are fifty four talas of Magah Khin. It is commonly known as Madal. [Audio]
Muhali is a conical bore shawm, which is played only by Jugi (Kusle) caste.
Jugis are given Khanki (land) for playing Muhali in various occasions. There is a tradition to play Muhali everyday in Phalchas ,i.e. roofed rest places, which tradition is also known as Siwa Yayegu.
Muhali accompanies Dhah, Dapha Khin, Paschima, Nagara and others. Muhali solo is played in Digu puja.
Bansuri is a woodwind instrument which accompanies mainly Paschima, Dapha Khin or Koncha Khin. Basuri are of three kinds: Ghor, Majhawala and Teep, producing low, middle and high tones.
Also known as Payantah, Ponga is a long wind instrument made of brass. Pongas are made by Tamoh or Tamrakar (Newar Coppersmith). It accompanies Kwatah Khin and it is also played in Bhailah Pyakhan (Bhairab Dance). [Audio]
Kaha resembles Ponga. It is also known as Indra Baja and it is believed to be invented at the time of Manju Shree. It is played with Naya Khin In many festivals nd also playd in funeral processions. There is a typical caste, called Kabuja, who play Kaha.
The word 'Tah' comes from ' Tala ' which is derived from 'Tandava' and 'Lasya'. Tah controls Tandava and Lasya of Music. It controls whole rythm of music. Tah is considered as the principle musical instruments among all Newar musical instruments.
Tah, apair os thicker cymbal, is made of Asta Dhatu (an alloy of eight holy metals). It accompanies Dhah, Dapha Khin, Paschima, Koncha Khin, Naya Khin (when played as Gunla Bajab) and others. [Audio]
Sarangi is the instrument played by the "Gandharba" caste. Though sarangi is not played by the Newars and also it can be taken the common Nepalese Music, Sarangi is an integral part of Newar music, which is played in Newar societies where the Gandharba caste resides.
Sarangi is a four-string instrument. These strings produce C, C and G, G notes. It is a bowing instrument i.e. it is played with a bow. One of the either notes are played with fundamental note in unison giving rich melody. It has got no fret boards or fingering frets. Notes are changed by putting fingers in-between and making the length of vibration short.
The structure of a Sarangi is very interesting. It has no joints and extra piece attached to create the body. No wondered, it is carved out of single block of Khhira wood whereas nowadays Saaj wood. A small hole is created sound to pass through the vibrating strings and small piece of skin to the cavity to amplify the sound. Wooden Key is used to tune the strings and a small piece of wooden block is used as a bridge on top of the skin piece. A bow with horsetail were used to bow the strings but now a days been replaced with nylon bow.
Damphu is the most popular instrument in the Himalayan region and plays a crucial part in their gatherings, feasts and festivals with its remarkable sound. The Damphu produces bracing sound when it is played by beating it with a hand on the disc made of skin, which is about 15 inches in diameter and covers only on side. To hold the Damphu it has a handle, which has a thickness of about 3 inches. Wooden pins hold the disc and handle together.
Its can produce low bass sound as well as transient sound often used in down beats with a variation of bass sound in a pattern. The tempo in which the pattern flows depends upon the genre of music. Mostly in Himalayan region, it’s played much slower than lower region where tempo gives one to move with the rhythm.