Over the past decade, Jhuma Limbu, a singer and researcher of Nepali folk music, has been working to revive local ethnic music. With her team, she has also worked to restore and revive Nepali traditional instruments and to create music relevant to today’s listeners. She has documented and researched traditional singing methods of indigenous communities of the country and is trained in classical and Western traditional music. She has performed on various platforms – live, as a playback singer and has an album. In this edition of WOW, the talented and dedicated music professional talks about her journey and interests:
What are you currently working on?
My team and I have succeeded in restoring Raithaney Bajas and are now venturing to create a proper platform to showcase these beautiful local instruments. I am also studying Hakpare which is traditional Limbu music, and takes years of practice to master it. Other than that, I am doing filmy and commercial music.
What sparked your musical journey?
It took me 16 years to set up a map. I was strongly attracted to music. As a rookie singer my intentions were innocent with dreams of name and fame. When I began to identify with music, it made me look beneath the surface. On the international platform of world music, I was left with questions of the originality of Nepali sounds. The sounds which we play are mostly westernised. That took me on a journey of researching our native sounds.
How do you view the current Nepali music scene?
Mainstream music is highly cherished by Nepali audiences and most of the Nepali music that we have are alterations of sounds from all around the world. Very little work has been done when it comes to traditional Nepali sounds which is ironic as we are a heterogeneous country with so many cultures, traditions, art and music. But our curriculums are being revised and now there is an emphasis on folk and traditional music.
How do you define Nepali sounds?
The revised edition of local instruments which are audible and can be played in the studio is Nepali harmony. The typical Nepali sound can be found in a song titled ‘Resham Firiri’. The folk song is a composition of native musical instruments like Sarangi. But not all instruments can be played in the studio. It needs a trilogy of research, harmony and melody. The tools have to be polished and revised to lay into an art form. After the revised edition, if the local tools give an audible sound, then it falls into the category of Nepali sound.
Why folk music?
When it comes to music, you can have as many flavours as you prefer, there are no boundaries. But when it comes to representing one’s country music, we might be last in the race. Musical instruments like guitar, dhol and nagara cannot be called Nepali instruments as the patent rights are owned by a particular country. We have to demonstrate our original Nepali music and art, the music that we can call our own is folk. I am not putting us on a reverse gear, rather steering us towards a forgotten path.