A few weeks ago, I was listening to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture on my headphones. I accept the fact that I don’t usually listen to orchestra music, but for a fleeting moment, I felt like swinging my arms to the beat.
However, a friend interrupted by, asking what I was listening to. On hearing my reply, he bluntly said, “Some people would make fun of that, you know, orchestral music.”
He wasn’t completely wrong either. In Nepal, though many people adore western music, they prefer to always tilt towards pop or rock, and often end-up describing classical western music as a joke. Each instrument, whether it is a violin or a bassoon, a guitar or a piano; classical western music has never pierced the hearts of listeners here.
There are enthusiasts who want to learn western classical music. Places and people to teach the same are also readily available. However, even among these partisans, the scope or choice of instruments remain small, due to lack of knowledgeable tutors along with the unavailability of instruments.
The violin which is popular in Nepal, in comparison to its counterparts is more learned than, other stringed instruments like the viola or the cello. The same case applies towards the saxophone that surpasses other instruments like the clarinet in popularity.
Shubha Bahadur Sunam, Director as well as western-classical music instructor at Nepal Music Centre (NMC) points out that the public are under a misconception regarding western music, which, they automatically assume to be rock or pop, thus leaving out western-classical music.
“First of all, there are only a handful of people that appreciate western-classical music, and those that are interested, usually lie low,” says Sunam, who has been playing as well as composing this type of music for almost 50 years. He was also a part of the Nepal Army Band.
“To make matters worse, exposure towards western classical music is almost nil, here,” he adds.
Raj Kumar Malakar, western-classical guitar teacher at Kathmandu University School of Music, shares the same notion.
“There is no trend of European-classical music here in the first place which makes it harder for those that are interested to learn more about the genre,” he opines, adding that there is severe lack of knowledgeable personas, citing that even KU School of Music hasn’t got an out and out western-classical music teacher.
Understanding western classical music is also a challenge since pop music is easy to interpret where as classical music is not. “Sometime when people see me play, they ask ‘what is this?’ not understanding classical guitar playing which is in a way very different from the modern style,” states Malakar.
The availability of instruments is also a case of concern, as Misun Kim, teacher at Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory (KJC) puts.
“Availability of instruments is a major factor since, without the instruments there can be no shows or exposure to the music,” remarks the Korean piano tutor.
She further adds, “Although self-taught artists are on the rise, instructors also play a vital role in developing future musicians. If there are no teachers or instruments, I doubt there will be any students or future musicians,”
For a fact, classical musical instruments are not only used for classical-music purposes. There are a lot of artists that combine various genres to create something unique, take for instance Gorillaz or Arcade Fire. However even though fusion is on the rise, mixing them both has not been smooth.
“Today, they pick out an old-folk song and add other modern instruments to that and call it fusion,” reiterates Sunam. “Apart from a few noted artists who pay attention to the tones and rhythm, other artists have just not cut it as fusion music,” he says.
True, this isn’t our own traditional form of music, and its introduction to us has not been very long. But, for a population that so ardently follows western music, you would expect more followers of western-classical music, but that is just not the case here.
Improvement on these fronts may come about if exposure to western-classical music were to increase. As well as a rise in interest among the public itself would be a good alternative, for that would watching or reading ‘A Clockwork Orange’ every once in a while, suffice?
You are wrong my friend. I grew up in classical music and classical poetry. There´s nothing to be shameful to listen ´rich music´ than ´crap music´. What we all can learn about music, poetry or any other form or art is to ponder on classics and then realize that all of us have the ´unique music´ to perform to the world.
Frasier: Remember when you used to think the 1812 Overture was a great piece of classical music?