Sunday, 29 November, 2020
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Reviving traditional music in modern times: Dapha Calling



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By Mannu Shahi
Kathmandu, Nov. 22: Dapha Calling is a four-part panel discussion series that revolved around the knowledge within traditional music groups from the Newar community which are called Dāphā Khalah in Nepal Bhasa. This series is presented by the U.S. Embassy’s Book Bus and is jointly organized by the Tahnani Dapha Khalah, Kirtipur, Satori Center for the Arts and Quixote’s Cove. The organizing committee of the event aims to create a virtual space for Dapha practitioners, researchers, music educators, policy-makers and local stakeholders to come together, share and learn from each other.
Divided in four sessions each panel had three renowned global or native music personalities talking about the future scope of the music practice and the importance of preserving the core value of this intangible heritage. The first session of the series entitled ‘Speak about Dapha Khalah: A conversation on Dapha rituals and pedagogy and the possibilities of adopting new approaches to them within Dapha Khalahs’ held on 19th November featured three speakers Richard Widdess, Victoria Daznell and Subash Ram Prajapati. British musicologist/ ethnomusicologist Richard Widdess, currently a professor at SOAS, London is also the publisher of the book ‘Dapha: Sacred Singing in a South Asian City. Music, meaning & performance in Bhaktapur, Nepal’ shared his expertise in the field.
Victoria Daznell an American ethnomusicologist and a visiting professor at Kathmandu University Department of Music expressed her journey of documenting and studying the culture and practices of Tharu communities and its relevancy in analyzing some aspects of the Dapha tradition. Subash Ram Prajapati an ethnomusicologist and currently a Newar music educator in Seattle, US conveyed his experience in the continuity, change and transmission of traditional Newari music.
The second panel discussion held on 20th November raised issues concerning inclusiveness and gender based equality entitled ‘Expanding the Dapha Khalah: A conversation on the various challenges and prospects of making Dapha Khalahs more inclusive’ featuring three very active music educators Indira Lachhimasyu, Deepa Maharjan and Prem Gurung. The first Dhimey girl Indira Lachhimasyu shared her views on gender inequality in folk music and her struggles of being a female musician and leading one of Nepal’s very few all-women traditional Dapha group. Deepa Maharjan a representative of local Dapha Khala of Kritipur expressed her take on being amidst the limited female Dapha music practitioners. While, Prem Gurung an ethnomusicologist who is currently a Newari drum instructor at the University of Helsinki, Finland confronted his experiences and challenges of being a non-Newar traditional Newari drum teacher.
The third and the final day of the event hosted two discussion sessions the first ‘Dapha on Stage: A conversation around integrating the Dapha tradition into Nepal’s music and creative industries’ featuring panelists Parvathy Baul, Bipu Shrestha and Echoes In The Valley music festival. Parvathy Baul a Baul devotee, singer and performer from West Bengal, India revealed her journey of taking this scared music practice to various global stages without losing the authenticity and the true devotional essence of the music. Bipu Shrestha a Dapha researcher and practitioner shared his experience of collecting many Dapha songs from different groups for the past 10 years. Rizu Tuladhar, the representative of Echoes in the Valley an annual music festival highlighted the importance of becoming more relevant to such critical artistic needs.
The final session entitled, ‘Locale in Focus - Tahnani Dāphā Khalah : A conversation about Tahnani Dāphā Khalah and their attempts at revitalizing their tradition by building stronger connections to local businesses and other community organizations’ featured speakers from the community like Anuj Pradhan the social development officer of the Kritipur Municipality; Ramesh Man Dangol coordinator of The People’s representative for Culture and Tourism Department, Kritipur; Ganga Devi Hayanju from Kritipur Community Homestay; Sachindra Maharjan of Jatra Café, Kritipur; Dilip Maharjan representative of the Tahnani Dapha Khalah and Aman Maharjan the chairperson of Ward no. 10, Kritipur.
All of the panels and discussion were held on Zoom meet with a live audience invited via pre-registration, the sessions were also promised to be out on Youtube soon.
The program was brought to us by the team of Folk Lok who are Pushpa Palanchoke on program concept and coordination duties, Aavash Upreti (Sound & Music) and Hitesh Vaidya on documentation, Nipun Meher Bajracharya on design, Pranab Man Singh and Suvani Singh Shrestha on program advising and Aakrit Shreshta and Ritu Rajbanshi on logistic management. 

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