Photo: Heikki Tuuli

Nuchhe Bahadur Dangol brings musical change in Nepal

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Blog

A smiling man, dressed in a traditional Nepalese hat, gives a warm greeting. Nuchhe Bahadur Dangol, a music professor at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, has been a strong change force in Nepalese musical life in the past decades. Last week, he was one of the keynote speakers of the international Cultural Diversity in Music Education conference hosted by the Sibelius Academy of the University of Arts Helsinki.

Dangol begun his musical journey already as a little boy with his father as his musical guide. He has built his teaching methods on his own experiences and hopes that his teaching will continue from his students to their students and so on. He hasn’t had it easy, though; he has had to struggle to overcome local cultural boundaries. The people in his own Jyapu community haven’t always approved of him teaching their music to all Nepalese people or even foreigners. Jyapu people believe that their culture shouldn’t be taught to outsiders.

- Still, I think that my research has assisted the next generation of Nepalese musicians and it is now their turn to take it internationally. I do hope that also students outside Nepal could have the opportunity to learn about our music. The unfortunate situation is, that we don’t have any written educational books about Nepalese music. And we don’t have much expertiese on writing such books at the moment - but I hope this will change in the future, he says.

In learning music, Dangol believes in understanding one’s own background and history in music and dance. He compares music to mother’s milk; the one you taste first is the most important.

- After knowing your own background you’ll be better able to expand your knowledge to other music cultures as well. At the moment, Nepalese music still covers only about 20 to 30% of our university’s music curriculum. The rest is mostly Indian music. This is not how I’d like it to be: I’d wish it could be more versatile and include for example also Western classical music.

This Spring’s natural catastrophy in Nepal affected also the musical life in many ways; for example, it destroyed valuable traditional instruments that have now be reconstructed all over again. In the middle of all the turbulence and disaster in his homeland, Dangol keeps it positive. He speaks of women’s right to music in Nepalese communities. He has fought against the traditions that prevent girls from touching musical instruments, and also the traditions that prevent people from playing melodies and rhythms that belong to different local communities or castes. 

Cultural Diversity in Music Education conference was held at the Helsinki Music Centre on June 10 - 12, 2015. The conference offered keynote presentations by Professor Chantal Mouffe (University of Westminster, London, UK), professor David Hansen (Teachers College Columbia University, New York, USA) and Nuchhe Bahadur Dangol. More information about the conference at http://sites.uniarts.fi/web/cdime.