Music of Nepal

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Music of Nepal
General topics
Specific forms
Media and performance
Music festivals Goon lā
Music media
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem"Sayaun Thunga Phool Ka"

Music of Nepal refers to the various musical genres played and listened to in Nepal. With more than fifty ethnic groups, the music of Nepal is highly diverse. Genres like Tamang Selo, Dohori, Adhunik Geet, Bhajan, Filmi music, Ghazal, Classical music, and Ratna music are widely played and popular, but many other less common genres are yet to be cataloged. Western musical genres like Rock, Metal, Hip-Hop, Rap, R&B also regularly feature on the Nepalese music charts. Most of the country's musical bands are based in the Kathmandu valley. Musical genres from Tibet and India have greatly influenced Nepalese music.

Nepal A landlocked country in the Himalayas

Nepal, officially Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is located mainly in the Himalayas, but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. With an estimated population of 26.4 million, it is 48th largest country by population and 93rd largest country by area. It borders China in the north and India in the south, east and west while Bangladesh is located within only 27 km (17 mi) of its southeastern tip and Bhutan is separated from it by the Indian state of Sikkim. Nepal has a diverse geography, including fertile plains, subalpine forested hills, and eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Kathmandu is the capital and the largest city. Nepal is a multiethnic country with Nepali as the official language.

Tamang Selo

Tamang Selo is a genre of Nepali folk song sung by the Tamang people and widely popular among the Nepali-speaking community in Nepal, in India, and around the world. It is usually accompanied by Tamang instruments, the Damphu, Madal and Tungna. A Selo could be very catchy and lively or slow and melodious and is usually sung to express love, sorrow and stories of day to day life.

Dohori (Nepali:दोहोरि) is a type of Nepali Folk song usually sung by two teams of men and women. It is in the form of question and answer where a team sings a question and the opponent replies through an equally lyrical impromptu couplet and vice versa. The term Dohori, means 'back and forth' and refers to the exchange of lyrical phrases between the contesting singers. The song production is collaborative and involves many individuals.




Dohori is a genre of Nepali folk music and has roots in the rural courtship traditions. In Nepali, Dohori literally means from both sides or a debate. This debate is in musical rhythm, and involves quick and witty poetry. The two teams taking part in a Dohori usually involves boys and girls in rival teams. The song starts with a question, usually from the boys' side. The girl follows the question with a quick response and the two teams continue the musical conversation.

Dohori songs can last for as long as a week. The length of the Dohori depends on the quick thinking ability and wit of the players. [1]

Adhunik Geet

Adhunik Geet or modern songs are popular songs in Nepal and is also known as sugam sangeet. These of songs are soft and melodious. One of the most famous singers of this genre was late Narayan Gopal who was also known as a "Swar Samrat" meaning King of 'Voice' in Nepali and gave hits like "Euta Manchhe Ko", and "Yeti Dherai Maya Dii". Aruna Lama was one of the well-known singers of Nepali music. [2] She is popularly known as the "Nightingale of the Hills". She has sung hundreds of Nepali songs. [3]

Adhunik Geet or Adhuneek Geet, meaning "modern song", is a genre of Nepali music, which emerged in the 1950s and derives its influence from folk, classical, western music and Ghazals. Musicians such as Master Ratna Das Prakash, Amber Gurung, Nati Kaji drew together the core elements of this often sentimental genre.

Narayan Gopal Gurucharya(Nepali: नारायणगोपाल गुरुआचार्य), known professionally as Narayan Gopal and N. Gopal was a prominent popular singer and composer of Nepali music. Regarded one of the most significant cultural icons in Nepal, he is referred as "Swar Samrat" in Nepal. He is also known as "Tragedy King" owing to his numerous tragedy songs. He also sang in Nepalbhasa.

Aruna Lama Nepalese female singer

Aruna Lama 9 September 1945 – 4 February 1998) was one of the well-known singers of Nepali music. She is popularly known as "Nightingale of the Hills". She sang hundreds of Nepali songs, including some for Nepali Film, and left an indelible mark as one of the best singers in Nepali music.


There are numerous professional classical musicians in the Kathmandu Valley. Bands such as, Sur-Sudha, [4] Sukarma, [5] Trikaal, [6] Kutumba [7] are popular and well known in Nepal. Classical music organizations such as Kalanidhi Indira Sangeet Mahavidyalaya, [8] Nepal Sangeet Vidyalaya, SK Gurukul Sangeet Pathshala, Narayan Music Academy, Gandharva Sangeet Vidyalaya, Shree Sangeet Pathshala, Kirateswor Sangeet Ashram, Kapan Sangit Sarowar, Yalamaya Kendra [9] [10] , Ram Mandir, Gurukul Sangeet Pathshala, Atul Music Memorial Gurukul [11] etc. have been continuously contributing towards the development of Nepali classical music.

Kutumba (band)

Kutumba is an instrumental folk Nepalese band. It only uses Nepalese traditional musical instruments such as bamboo flutes, sarangi, madal, tungna, dhol, jhyamta, arbajoo, dhime, dhyangro, damphu, khin, and singing bowl. The band recorded a single for season 6 of Coke Studio Pakistan, which aired in late 2013. They have collaborated with other Nepali artists such as Navneet Aditya Waiba, Albatross, Hari Maharjan and Astha Tamang Maskey.

Kalanidhi Indira Sangeet Mahavidyalaya is an institution that teaches classical music in Nepal. It was established in 1963. This College is acknowledged and accredited by Bhat Khande Sangeet M.V. in Lucknow, India and by Prayag Sangeet Samiti in Allahabad India. Pandit Ranga Rao Kabambari was the first principal. Subsequent principals were Pt. Ganesh B. Bhandadri, Sangeet Pravin Nar Raj Dhakal, and Mohan Prasad Joshi.

SK Gurukul Sangeet Pathshala

Shree Krishna Gurukul Sangeet Pathshala, popularly known as SK Gurukul is a classical music school based in Kathmandu. Incorporated in 2005 A.D., SK Gurukul Sangeet Pathshala is located at Erahity chowk, Banasthali, Kathmandu, and has been conducting eastern classical vocal and tabla classes under the guidance of classical vocalist Tilak Singh Pela, who is a disciple of Sangeet Praveen Dhan Bahadur Gopali and Pt. Devashish Dey.The music teaching in SK Gurukul is based on Guru-Shishya Parampara and it traces its lineage back to famous Banaras Gharana, Agra Gharana, Gwalior Gharana, and Mewati Gharana of Hindustani Classical Music. It offers Classical Vocal and Tabla courses from Junior Diploma to Sangeet Praveen, affiliated to Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad, India.

Ethnic music

Maithili Music

Maithili Music is one of the most ancient types of music in South Asia . It originated from Mithila region which is now divided between India and Nepal. No on knows exactly when Maithili Music came into existence, probably due to the length of its history, but its age indicates that it might have helped other music develop and flourish in India and Nepal.[ citation needed ]

South Asia Southern region of Asia

South Asia, or Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan SAARC countries and, for some authorities, adjoining countries to the west and east. Topographically, it is dominated by the Indian Plate, which rises above sea level as Nepal and northern parts of India situated south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush. South Asia is bounded on the south by the Indian Ocean and on land by West Asia, Central Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Mithila, also known as Tirhut and Tirabhukti, is a geographical and cultural region of the Indian subcontinent, mainly located in the Indian state of Bihar. This region is bounded by the Mahananda River in the east, the Ganges in the south, the Gandaki River in the west and by the foothills of the Himalayas in the north. It extends into the eastern Terai of Nepal.

India Country in South Asia

India is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Although Maithili music is usually played by classical instruments, it has been modernized and now uses various modern instruments. Some significant contributors to this music style are Maha Kavi Vidyapati Thakur, Udit Narayan Jha and Sharda Sinha. [12] The region's folk songs are associated with the various events in the life of an ordinary person.

Pioneer of Nepali folk songs - Hira Devi Waiba Hira Devi Waiba.jpg
Pioneer of Nepali folk songs - Hira Devi Waiba

Tamang music

The Tamang community is well known for the Damphu, a traditional instrument. Tamang Selo music is accompanied by the Damphu and Tungna. It is said that British people derived the idea of making drum sets from Damphu during their stay in India. Western and Indian instruments influences are also seen in some modern Tamang Selo music.

Hira Devi Waiba is hailed as the pioneer of Nepali folk songs. She has sung about 300 songs throughout her musical career of 40 years. [13] After Hira Devi Waiba died in 2011, her son Satya Waiba and daughter Nanveet Aditya Waiba took upon the task of reviving her songs, re-recorded them with a new sound and released them in Navneet's voice. [14] [15] They named the album 'Ama Lai Shraddhanjali - Tribute to Mother'. [16]

Newa music

Newa music, also called Newar Music, is a form of traditional music developed in Nepal by the Newars. The music has its roots in classical Hindu and Buddhist music and evolved with the incorporation of folk music of the Kathmandu valley and its peripheries. Instruments used are mainly percussion and wind instruments. Notable Newar singer Narayan Gopal. Regarded one of the cultural icons in Nepal, he is referred as "Swar Samrat" (Nepali: स्वर सम्राट, meaning: Emperor of Voice) in Nepali music. He is also known as "Tragedy King" owing to his numerous tragedy songs.

Gramophone record of the song "Danchhi ya alu" by Madhan Krishna Shrestha Danchhi gramophone record.jpg
Gramophone record of the song "Danchhi ya alu" by Madhan Krishna Shrestha

"Dhime" a traditional drum, is used by the Newar People in many occasions.

Gurung music

Gurungs have an ancient tradition of Rodhi [17] where young people meet, sing and dance to folk songs, and share their views. Young men and women at Rodhi often sing the Dohori. Some musical dances like Ghantu and Chudka are still in existence, and is performed in many Gurung villages. These dance forms are centuries old and are performed either solo or in a group. Music also plays a big role in the Gurung ritual of Argum, which is performed when someone in the community dies. [18] Notable Gurung singer - Khem Raj Gurung.

Kirat music

The Yakthungs (Limbu) have various forms of songs, dances and musical instruments. Of them, Dhan Naach (paddy dance) [19] and Chyabrung (Dhol Nach "drum dance") [20] are most popular. Khambu celebrate Sakela, a dance performed during the occasion of "Udauli" and "Ubhuali" which is the most important festival of Khumbu (Rai, Kirat). Sakela which is sometimes wrongly referred as Chandi Naach. Chandi is a Hindu goddess and is not related with the Kirat culture. Many dance forms involve rituals and religious offerings towards Mundhum.

Magar music

Salaijo, Kauda and Sorathi are the three exclusive musical genres of Magar music. [21] . Notable Mangar singer - Master Mitrasen Thapa Magar

Sherpa music

Sherpa music is based on Tibetan Buddhism. It is similar to music of Tibet around the trans-Himalayan region. Tibetan music is mostly religious music, reflecting the influence of Tibetan Buddhism.

"With influence from Tibet, this Nepalese music is characterized by unison singing and occasional accompaniment on the damian, a stringed instrument in the lute family that provides a strong rhythmic base. The musicians generally sing in Helambu (a Sherpa-Tibetan dialect) and sometimes in Tibetan on themes of religion, a desire for material wealth, the natural landscape, and a “sense of an ordered world in contrast to the nomadic pattern of many peoples’ lives” (Bishop). Liner notes include a description of the village and its music, track notes, and lyrics in Helambu/Tibetan and English". [22]

Tharu music

Tharu music is also one of the ancient types of music still played in Nepal. The Tharu people sing songs like Sajana, Maghiya, and Dashainya mostly in the western parts of Nepal.

Music Influenced by other regions of the World

Musicians singing devotional songs Kathmandu-21.JPG
Musicians singing devotional songs

These are musical genres which were introduced to Nepal from outside and thrived.


A bhajan is a devotional song praising and sometimes calling upon the Gods. It has no fixed form; it may be as simple as a mantra or kirtan. It is usually lyrical, expressing love and prayer for the Divine. Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu and Sai Baba bhajans are popular in Nepal. [23] Notable Bhajan singers Bhakta Raj Acharya, Koili Devi Mathema.

Filmi music

Filmi music is popular in Nepal and produced for mainstream motion pictures. Cinema in Nepal has a short history hence filmi music is still evolving.


The Ghazal is a poetic form of music consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, with each line sharing the same meter. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of pain, loss and separation, beauty of love and nature. It is a delicate form of poetry and music. The form is ancient, originating in 6th-century Arabic verse. Ghazals spread into South Asia in the 12th century owing to the influence of Sufi mystics and the courts of the new Islamic Sultanate in India and South Asia. Although the ghazal is a form of Dari and Urdu poetry, its influence can be seen in the poetry of many languages of the Indian sub-continent. Motiram Bhatta introduced the written form of ghazal in Nepali language circa 1890. Seturam Shrestha (1891-1941) has been credited with pioneering ghazals in Nepal. [24]

Western music


Pop, Hip Hop

Norden Tenzing Bhutia is said to the the pioneer of Nepali Pop. [25]


With the growth and development of the Nepali music industry, different award ceremonies are held in different parts of the country, some focusing local talents. Awards of national level are held each year by some media houses, namely Hits FM, [26] Image FM, [27] Radio Kantipur Music Awards. [28]

Atul Memorial Music Gurukul, [29] was established in 2003 in memory of Nepali Tabla Maestro Atul Gautam. Since then the organisation has been awarding Nepali classical maestros once a year on the occasion of Atul Jayanti.

Related Research Articles

Music of India Includes multiple varieties of classical music, folk music, filmi, Indian rock and Indian pop

The music of India includes multiple varieties of Punjabi Music, classical music, folk music, filmi, Indian rock, and Indian pop. India's classical music tradition, including Hindustani music and Carnatic, has a history spanning millennia and developed over several areas. Music in India began as an integral part of socio-religious life.

Udit Narayan Nepalese playback singer

Udit Narayan is an Indian playback singer whose songs have been featured mainly in Bollywood movies of Hindi language. He has also sung in various other languages including Telegu, Tamil, Kannada, Odia, Nepali, Bhojpuri, Bengali. He has won 4 National Film Awards and 5 Filmfare Awards with 20 nominations among many others. He had to struggle a lot even after his debut in 1980 in Bollywood playback. He got to sing with legends Mohammed Rafi in his Bollywood Playback debut in movie Unees-Bees in 1980 and also with Kishore Kumar in the 1980s. He finally made his mark in 1988 movie Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak starring Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla, his song "Papa Kehte Hain" was his notable performance which earned him his first Filmfare Award in the 1980s and he established himself in Bollywood Playback Singing. He is the only male singer in the history of the Filmfare Awards to have won in over three decades.

Tamang people ethnic group

The Tamangཏ་མང are the largest Tibetic ethnic group of Nepalis and Indian Gorkhas. Traditionally Buddhist by religion, they Constitute 5.6% of the Nepalese population at over 1.3 million in 2001, increasing to 1,539,830 as of 2011 census, yet contested. Indian Tamangs are also a significant number in Sikkim and Darjeeling District of West Bengal, India as permanent settlers; their languages are the fifth most spoken in Nepal. They are considered as one of the indigenous people of Nepal and India.

Music of West Bengal

The music of West Bengal includes multiple indigenous musical genres such as Baul, Bishnupuri Classical, Kirtan, Shyama Sangeet, Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul Geeti, Atulprasadi, Dwijendrageeti, Kantageeti, Ganasangeet, Adhunik Gaan, Bengali rock etc. The city of Darjeeling, which has a large number of Nepali people, is a center for Nepali rock too.

Culture of Nepal Asian culture

The culture of Nepal is intertwined with the culture of the border Indian subcontinent and Tibet. The cultural heritage of Nepal has evolved over the centuries. This multi-dimensional heritage bounds the diversities of Nepal's ethnic, tribal, and social groups, and it expresses in music and dance; art and craft; folklore and folktales; languages and literature; philosophy and religion; festivals and celebration; foods and drinks. Its culture is enormously diversed and mostly influenced by Indian culture and Tibetan culture.

Indian folk music

Indian folk music is diverse because of India's vast cultural diversity. It has many forms including bhangra, lavani, dandiya, Sufi folk rock, and Rajasthani.

Damphu drum Nepalese frame drum

A damphu, or damfoo, is a percussion instrument similar to a large tambourine. This instrument is used by the Tamang people to play the melodious Tamang Selo. According to folklore Damphu was invented by Peng Dorje a Tamang King and named it after Nepal's national bird the Daphne bird.

Ram Krishna Dhakal Nepalese musician and Singer

Ram Krishna Dhakal is one of the most popular singing stars in the realm of Nepali music and singing genre since he started singing the Nepali songs. Ram Krishna Dhakal is a prominent popular and talented well known Modern, Pop, Playback, Singer as well Actor and judge of a reality show of Nepal show like Nepali Tara. Many consider him only second to the singing maestro late Narayan Gopal, who is respected as the king of melody in the Nepali speaking world. Ram Krishna Dhakal has become one of the most popular singing stars in the realm of Nepali music and singing genre since he started singing the Nepali songs.

Hits FM (Nepal)

Hits FM is a radio station based in Kathmandu, Nepal. It is a subsidiary of Hits Nepal Pvt. Ltd., which was established in January 1996. It went on air in April 1996. It is now available 24 hours daily on 91.2 MHz. Its philosophy is to hire presenters who are "fresh" - thus ensuring originality and also the ability to shape the presenters in accordance to overall goals and objectives of Hits Nepal Pvt. Ltd.


The madal is the folk musical instrument ofin Nepal. The Madal, is used mainly for rhythm-keeping in Nepalese folk music, is the most popular and widely used as hand drum in Nepal. The Madal consists of a cylindrical body with a slight bulge at its center and heads at both ends, one head larger than the other. It is usually played horizontally in a seated position, with both heads played simultaneously.

Shiva Shankar Nepalese musician

Shiva Shankar Manandhar was a singer, music composer of Nepali songs and the chief actor in the first Nepali movie, Aama. For nearly a half century beginning from 1950 to late 1990, his name has probably been mentioned more often in books, journals, lectures and conversations about Nepalese music than any other musicians.

Gopal Yonzon was a prominent popular singer and composer of Nepali music. He was also known for his patriotic Nepali songs. His voice range allowed him to sing songs of every genre of Nepalese music. He belongs to the first generation of Nepali singers who became professional singers. His songs have also been used in several movies and dramas across the country.

Hira Devi Waiba Indian Singer

Hira Devi Waiba was a Nepali folk singer from Darjeeling, India and is hailed as the pioneer of Nepali folk songs.

Narayan Rayamajhi Nepali composer, lyricist, feature-film script writer, film director, and producer.

Narayan Rayamajhi is a Nepali composer, lyricist, feature-film script writer, film director, and producer. He is a nationally renowned folk artist and he has risen to the level of the top folk singer and movie director of Nepal. He has steadily excelled as a singer and he has made a significant contribution to promote Nepali Music Industry. He has written more than fourteen dozen folk songs, more than six dozen modern songs, two dozens soap-opera songs, three musical plays, two documentaries and has he directed two movies Gorkha Paltan and Pardeshi

<i>Ama Lai Shraddhanjali</i> Nepali folk music album by Navneet Aditya Waiba

Ama Lai Shraddhanjali is a Nepali folk music album by Navneet Aditya Waiba, produced by Satya Waiba and released on 3 November 2017 in Patan Museum, Kathmandu, Nepal. It was released by OKListen Media online. The album is a tribute to Legendary Nepali folk singer the late Hira Devi Waiba, Navneet and Satya's Mother.


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29. ^ Fiddler's Green, an indian band in reviving the folk music of Nepal. Members include Arko Mukherjee, Diptanshu Roy (dolinman), Shamik Chatterjee and Ritoban Das