August Gathering at Second International Folklore Congress

The second International Folklore Congress kicked off in the capital today, drawing in renowned scholars from Nepal, India, Malaysia, USA, Germany, UK, Bangladesh, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Sri Lanka. The four-day gathering will attempt to communicate, preserve and evaluate the impacts of folklore on contemporary art, literature and lifestyles.

Folklore thrives on oral traditions, be it myths, legends, poetry, or songs. “It, therefore, faces the risk of extinction, if not made known to a large audience,” Satya Mohan Joshi, one of the paper presenters, told The Kathmandu Post. The importance of folklore lies in the fact that it brings out the similarity between different civilizations. “It makes us realize that we have common origins,” he added.

While a systematic archive would be the best way to record and thereby preserve folklore, the impact of folklore is distinctly visible in literature and arts. In developing countries, folklore and separate artistic genres have a symbiotic relationship, maintains Dr Kapila Vatsyayana from India. Delivering the keynote today, she argued that there is a relationship between oral and written forms in South Asia.

“There is a phenomenon of poetry not being restricted only to word and sound, but the very nature of the articulation of the sound has an inbuilt visual narrative,” she said, adding, “the performance dimension is intrinsic to the verbal text.”

In Nepal, poetry is most eloquent about modernism of art, said Dr. Abhi Subedi. “The problem with the rejection of tradition in modern poetry as seen in Europe is that it either ignores the multiple layers of experiences or shows that there are not any cultural experiences to be represented by an epic poetry,” he argued, after saying that the objective of folklores in modern Nepali poetry is to reflect Nepali creative anxiety about modernization of culture.

The theater is not free from the effect of folklore. “The origin of theater owes to folklore,” said Shiva Rijal. However, the theatrical tradition in Nepal evolved in dual manner, with Bal Krishna Sama, Gopal Rimal, Vijay Malla, Govinda Gothale and Bhimnidhi Tiwari giving less emphasis to folklore. Folk theater flourished, especially in Kathmandu, Rijal said.

While mass media has stolen most of the consumers of entertainment, storytelling, a popular profession in Maithili cultural life, is facing a tough time. “The joys and sorrows, trials and tribulations, and happenings and miseries of thecommon man are truly reflected in the folktales,” said Dr. Ram Dayal Rakesh. “Under the pressure of materialist environment, Maithili folklore is disappearing. The traditional storytellers are gone with the wind.”

To salvage the almost extinct folk practices, it is important to start a folk archive. “The government should initiate efforts in that direction,” said Satya Mohan Joshi. “Rock and Pop are not our culture. Folk is,” he added.

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand said that research and in depth study of folklore is very important for historians and students of social studies, as it reflects social evolution and depicts the realities of the society’s traditional practices.

The Prime Minister was speaking at the inauguration programme of the Congess at the Birendra International Convention Centre. On the occasion, he also recited his poem. Mohan Koirala, Vice-Chancellor of Royal Nepal Academy, chaired the inauguration function.

The four-day event is being organized by the Nepali Folklore Society, presided by Professor Tulasi Diwasa.

Gopali Folk Cultural Show in Kunchhal

A Gopali folk cultural programme was organized jointly by Nepali Folklore Society (NFS) and Nispaksha Gopali Yuba Club in Kunchhal village (Bajrabarahi VDC), Makawanpur district, on 21st December 2005. Prof. Tulasi Diwasa, NFS President, had attended the programme as the Chief Guest, along with the members of the Gopali folklore and folklife research team including Mr. Tej Prakash Shrestha, Dr. Rudra Laxmi Shrestha, Mr. Ekaram Maharjan, Mr. Jitendra Kumar Chaudhary, and the Cameraman Mr. Siddartha K. Shakya.

People of the Gopali folk group from Kunchhal, Papung, Tistung and Gahate villages were present in the programme, where the Gopalis had performed their folk dances, folk songs, modern songs, religious songs (e.g. Lok Bhajan and Ram Bhajan), patriotic songs, traditional dramas etc., using various folk and modern musical instruments (such as Bansuri, Khin or Madal, Jhyali, Ponga, Tabala, Muhali or Sahnai, harmonium etc.) and wearing their folk dresses (including the women’s Haku Patasi) during the performance. Among the several items of cultural show presented on the occasion, a dance performed by the young Gopalis in the song based on the story of King Kam Singh and his Minister Chandra Singh was remarkable.The performance of Prakash Gopali’s self-composed song was also noteworthy. Besides, the presentation of Dr. Rudra Laxmi Shrestha, a member of the Gopali folklore and folklife research team, was also highly admirable. She had presented a Bhajan (religious song) playing with the harmonium.

In the programme, when the Chief Guest Prof. Diwasa had delivered a thoughtful and highly inspiring speech, the entire mass of Gopali community present in the programme had cheered up. Emphasizing the importance of studying folk culture, he said that such cultural activities will definitely help to maintain the identity of the country, and will assist a lot towards national development.

A large section of the Gopali folk community, from little children to the adults and old people, had attended the function with great enthusiasm.

The function was announced by Mr. Rup Chandra Gopali, the Chairperson of the club; and Mr. Chandra Bahadur Gopali, the Mul Naike (the folk group’s leader) of the village, had chaired it. The club’s secretary Mr. Nirmal Gopali had given welcome speech to the attendants.

Three Plays by Abhi Released

Kathmandu, June 1. Three Plays written by Prof. Dr. Abhi Subedi were released on Saturday amid a musical function attended by participants from the international folklore congress held in Kathmandu.

The plays – “Fire in the Monastery”, “A journey into Thamel” and “The Caretaker’s Sky” – were written in the Nepali language first and were translated by Dr. Sangita Rayamajhi, Lecturer at the Central Department of English, Tribhuvan University.

Releasing the plays compiled in a book, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayana from India said that Subedi’s works are based on folklore articulating the voices of women – a cry of their silence – in which the author tries to analyze the women psyche. “Subedi, although a male, is quite successful in depicting the voice of women, their passions, feelings and suffering, articulating them as well as female writers. His capability to look into an era indicating the acute imbalances, as Kalidas and Shakespeare, pens down a thread of inner access talking about life in aristocratic and modern society,” said Vatsyayana.

Commenting on Fire in the Monastery, she said that it is not about physical fire but the inner human psyche and gender issues. Prof. Tulasi Diwasa said his works attempt to tell something new in the modern context through the folklore tradition of quest for existence. I was fascinated by the woman characters depicted in Subedi’s plays and endeavoured to translate the works by having a feel for the sensitivity of a woman, said Dr. Rayamajhi.

“However, translating his works was not easy at all. It was difficult to translate the works to explain the culture, and there were problems with the language,” added Rayamajhi. Violence, bloodshed, insecurity and other hurdles prevailed then in the country. In such a situation, I wanted to pray for the revival of peace and share it, said Dr. Subedi, who created a nun as a character in his works, whose voice is always drowned, to unfold the mystery of power by projecting women in the plays.

The programme was organized at Dwarika’s Hotel in honour of the participants of the Second International Folklore Congress, and was sponsored by Mandala Book Point, Ratna Pustak Bhandar and Across Publication. Mr. Madhav Lal Maharjan, the master of ceremony, had also spoken on the occasion.

Fourth Sarangi Day Observed

The Fourth Sarangi Day was observed in the Royal Nepal Academy, Kathmandu as a joint celebration of Nepali Folklore Society and Gandharva Culture and Art Organization (GCAO) on 6th May 2006. The programme was organized in three sessions: inaugural ceremony, symposium and cultural show. The first and second sessions were chaired by Prof. Tulasi Diwasa, NFS President, where the first session started with the announcement of Dr. Shiva Rijal (Member, NFS Executive Committee).

The Chief Guest Mr. Pauli Mustonen, His Excellency the Finnish Ambassador to Nepal, inaugurated the function playing the Sarangi, along with the Mangal Dhun (the auspicious Sarangi music) performed by Gandharva music players. The chief guest also released the NFS Newsletter ‘Nepali Folklore and Folklife’, published for the first time in Nepal. On the occasion, Mr. Krishna Bahadur Gandharva (Gorkha), Mr. Tirtha Bahadur Gandharva (Tanahun), Mr. Junga Bahadur Gandharva (Dang), Mr. Rubin Gandharva (Gorkha) and Miss Imai Phumiko (Japan) were felicitated for their contribution in the promotion of Gandharva folk culture. Mr. Nara Bahadur Gandharva, GCAO Chairman, had introduced the personalities being honoured. Besides, child folk singers Kalyan Gandharva, Suraj Gandharva and Manju Gautam were given the letter of appreciation for their talent in folk singing. appreciated the popular feelings expressed through the Gandharvas’ Sarangi music that he had heard in the office of NFS some months ago, and remarked that folk music has been the expression of unity in diversity among the people of Nepal. Prof. Abhi Subedi, delivering the welcome speech, had highlighted the importance of the programme in connection with the extensive survey of the Gandharva Folklore and Folklife just carried out by NFS under the Nepali Folklore and Folklife Study Project. On the occasion, Dalit intellectual Mr. Hira Biswakarma described the pitiable situation of Gandharvas’ life and suggested to launch concrete programmes to promote their musical talents so that they can survive playing the Sarangi more comfortably. Special invitee Mr. Satya Mohan Joshi, eminent folk culture expert of Nepal, suggested the Gandharva people to stop the feeling of inferiority among others and come forward in society. He further remarked that the Gandharvas’ Sarangi music can present the real cultural identity of Nepal in the world, so this ethnic group can represent the identity of the nation as such. Prof. Chudamani Bandhu, NFS General Secretary, expressed the Vote of Thanks to all the attendants including the Chief Guest, distinguished personalities and all those who contributed to make the event successful. Speaking from the chair, Prof. Diwasa said that, celebrating the Sarangi Day, NFS has attempted not only to discuss on Sarangi as a musical instrument; but more importantly, to discuss about the Gandharva people since this musical instrument has been the identity of Gandharvas. He stressed the need to give more importance to the Sarangi players than to the Sarangi music itself, in order to promote the Gangharvas’ folk culture, and to work for creating such an environment in which the Gandharvas’ right to live by Sarangi playing is ensured.

In the second session, a symposium was organized with the theme ‘Gandharva Folklore and Folklife: Tradition and Changes’. The session began with the announcement of Mr. Jaya Raj Panta (Secretary, NFS Executive Committee), when Prof. Diwasa took the chair, and the distinguished guests as well as the paper presenters were invited to the dais.

Delivering his presentation entitled ‘Gandharva Folk Language and Folk Communication’, Prof. Chudamani Bandhu elaborated the role played by the Gandharvas in the past to transmit the information from one place to another by means of music and songs, whereby they used to narrate the contemporary events in their creation and visited different places performing such creations. This was a means of amusement for the public on one hand and a means of communicating the news on the other. Mr. Kusumakar Neupane, presenting the paper entitled ‘Gandharva Performing Folk Arts: Continuity and Changes’, described three most important forms of Gandharvas’ performing arts: music, dance and singing, elaborating what sort of their performances and musical instruments are disappearing and which ones are still surviving. Mr. Ganesh Gandhari spoke on the “Situation of Nepali Gandharvas and the Responsibility of Various Sectors”. He described the social, economic, cultural, educational and other aspects of Gandharvas’ life, depicting the pitiable situation which they are living in; then he pointed out the need for launching special programmes for uplifting their situation.

After the presentation of papers, Mr. Ganga Prasad Akela, Mr. Ram Sharan Darnal, Dr. Moti Lal Parajuli, Prof. Dr. Yogendra Prasad Yadava and Mr. Satya Mohan Joshi had given their constructive comments and feedbacks on the presentations of Prof. Bandhu, Mr. Neupane and Mr. Gandhari. Speaking from the chair, Prof. Diwasa closed the session, giving thanks to the paper presenters for their successful presentations. He pointed out that, since none of the languages or cultures is ‘superior’ or ‘inferior’, we should work for exploring and promoting all sorts of culture existing in our society, and actions should be launched for the cultural empowerment of people.

The third session was announced by Mr. Sachin Gandharva. The cultural programme started with the Mangal Geet (auspicious song) performed by a group of senior Gandharva singers including Mr. Gopilal Gandhari, Krishna Bahadur Gandharva, Yagya Bahadur Gandharva, Narayan Gandharva and Sura Bahadur Gandharva. On the occasion, Sarangi music performance was presented by Mr. Shyam Sharan Nepali, Ram Krishna Gandharva and his associates (from Samundra Band). Several Nepali folk song singers including Bima Kumari Dura, Khadak Garbuja, Rubin Gandharva, Kamala Chauhan, Raju Pariyar, Navaraj Ghorasaini and Badri Pageni had presented their folk songs. Another attraction of the function was the traditional Nepali Lok Dohori songs, in which the performers from Punhill Dohori Sanjh including Santosh Shrestha, Nara Bahadur Dangi, Prem Aryal, Manu Jug Sali Magar, Manu Rokka Magar, Nisha Lama and Sita Ale had presented their performance.