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Masterdrummers of Nepal

The Kathmandu University Ensemble

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The Kathmandu University Department of Music presents concert tours of the famous Masterdrummers of Nepal. This ensemble consists of ten musicians and dancers, including teachers and students at the Department of Music. The group performs two vibrant forms of Newar drumming, a ritual ensemble of nine drums (navabaja) accompanied by shawms, flutes, natural trumpets and cymbals, and an ensemble of processional drumming (dhimay drums and cymbals) and several traditional dances of Bhaktapur.

This ensemble toured Western Europe with great success during 1990 ('International Festival of Traditional Music DHIN DHA TUM TAK'), Italy during 1999 and 2000 ('La notte di San Lorenzo', 'Festival Musicale del Mediterraneo', etc.), Germany and the Czech Republic ('Festival Mitte Europa') during 2001, Austria (Parade Linz 2009), and France 2010 (Bombarde & Compnagnie).

Sponsors inviting the 'Masterdrummers of Nepal' are requested to provide the following:

1) International airfares for ten musicians
2) A lump sum of US $ 500 - for preparation in Nepal (passports, visas, boxes for the drums, etc.)
3) US $ 1.500.- per concert for the group. If there are TV or radio broadcasts or CD-recordings, separate agreements will have to be made.
4) Accommodation (5 double rooms with breakfast) and food allowance (lunch and dinner for ten persons, oriental cuisine preferred).
5) Transportation throughout the trip - preferably by bus. This would be the most practical way to travel with all the instruments.
6) Local guides to show us restaurants and sightseeing places.
7) Medical insurances for ten Nepalese nationals (essential requirement for visas).


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Newar civilization climaxed under the Malla kings (13th—18th centuries), whose rival kingdoms of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur competed in architectural, artistic and cultural splendour; several rulers themselves excelled as musicians, dancers, composers, poets and art patrons. Until today, the Newars maintain many aspects of their culture, including an elaborate round of urban rituals in which music and dance play a large part. Performance in Newar culture serves a variety of ritual and entertainment functions, establishing intimate connections between ritual, space, time, and society, and between the material and spiritual realms. Contemporary pressures inevitably ensure that Newar culture is undergoing rapid change and decline.


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The large, middle-caste, Hindu community of farmers (Jyapu) constitutes a veritable repository of Newar musical and other traditions. Several types of devotional music are performed in temples, of which the oldest, dapha, is believed to date from the 17th century heyday of Newar civilization. In Bhaktapur there remain some sixty dapha groups attached to different shrines and deities. Eight of the ritually most important dapha groups were expanded (beginning with two royal donations in the early 18th century) to include sets of nine different drums (navabaja). These are played at festival times by a master-drummer, in a three-hour sequence of contrasting drum solos, accompanied by the shawms of the Jugi tailormusicians and interspersed with dapha songs. Unfortunately most of these 'navadapha' groups ceased playing or perform only once or twice a year (earlier: approx. 22 times per year). As the musicians do not get frequent practice, they forget the complex repertory. The younger generation is mostly interested in commercial music.

Processional music of the farmers, bricklayers and potters is played during civic and family rituals. Among all the instrumental ensembles of Bhaktapur, only one single genre of processional music of the farmers (dhimaybaja) is still really popular among young men; one reason may be that they can attract the attention of the girls while playing their drums.


Prof. Dr. G.-M. Wegner
Director, Kathmandu University Dept. of Music
P.O.Box 6250
Kathmandu, Nepal
Tel.: 0097-1-4479505 and 4488365

Main | Department of Music | Masterdrummers of Nepal | Course List | CD
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