The Maadal is the most frequently played and most well known instrument in Nepalese musical history. It belongs to the Magar ethnic group and is found in most Regions of the country. It is 43cm long and is made from Chhatiwan, Daar or Khamaari wood. Usually a suitable log is hollowed out and cowhide is stretched over the open ends but there are variations in the method of construction in some areas. The drumheads are of different diameters i.e. 16cm and 13cm and the drum hides can be tightened by means of leather thongs, which are threaded between them. A black tuning paste composed of clay and kit is applied to each hide. The larger head with the wider spot is known as the female and the smaller one with the narrower spot the male. The Maadal is suspended at waist level by means of a shoulder strap and is played at both sides with the hands. It is considered the best of all Nepalese rhythm instruments for keeping the beat of folk music.
This is the most popular and famed of all Nepalese folk musical instruments and originates with the Ghandharva (Gaine caste) of the Gandaki Zone. It is made of Khirro wood and the lower part of the body is sometimes covered with the skin of a monitor lizard and sometimes with goatskin. It is 45cm long and the topmost part of the neck is called a kalasha. There are four strings made of goat gut and tuned to the notes G, C, C and G with with the first G string being one octave lower than the second. The bow is made of Painyu or Musure katus wood and horsehair, which is rubbed with resin from the Sallo tree before use. Travelling musicians go from door to door playing traditional folk songs including the Karkhaa and accompanying historical and other stories. The Ghandharva also improvise songs as they convey news and information from village to village and receive food and other donations in return.
This old Nepalese folk musical instrument (7.5cm in length) made of iron, is believed to be the favorite of Lord Shiva. It is similar in shape to Shiva’s Trishula, to Shivalinga and to the sacred sound Om as written in the Devanagiri script. It is also believed that Kirateshwar Mahadeva brought the Murchungaa . When played it is held in the teeth and the central tongue is plucked whilst drawing air in and blowing air out through the instrument and also altering the size and shape of the mouth cavity. Both rhythms and melodies are played. Its sound is very soft and tuneful and in the present day members of the Kirat ethnic group play it to accompany folk tunes and at various festivals.
The Maahuri Baajaa is 25-35cm long and is played in Myagadi District by the Chhyantal ethnic group. It is made from Nigaalo stems and consists of two pipes, one with only three holes in the lower part, which gives a constant sound like a drone, and one with six finger holes plus a thumbhole at the back; both have a bamboo reed (3cm long) in the mouthpiece. When played with circular breathing, the Maahuri Baajaa sounds like a bee foraging in a flower garden. These days there are few musicians with the ability to play this wind instrument, which is used for playing folk song tunes.
The Urni belonged originally to the Dhimal ethnic group from the eastern Teraai area of Nepal. It is made by inserting a Sissau wood stick (approximately 45cm long) through a Katahar wood bowl or a coconut shell (15cm in diameter). A skin is then stretched over the opening of the bowl and one horsehair string runs the length of the instrument. The overall length is 60cm. Dhimal musicians play the Urni, with a bow made of bamboo and horsehair, when offering prayers to their God and at death memorial ceremonies to remember their ancestors.
The Dhwanipaatra (singing bowl) is a brass bowl instrument with a large variation in size but is most commonly about 15cm in height and 25cm in diameter. It is played by stroking it round and round the edge with a short wooden stick. Buddhist can use it therapeutically in various healing processes and also in meditation. More recently it has become increasingly popular and is now often played by western musicians to give a novel sound to their music.
The Damaahaa is a single-sided copper drum belonging to the Panchai Baajaa. During playing it is hung around the neck and is beaten with one large stick. Musicians of the Damaai caste play the Damaahaa at all their holy festivals and at marriage ceremonies etc. It is 30cm high and 38cm in diameter and the drumhead is made of cowhide. The sound is said to improve after steeping in water for two or three days.
The smallest member of the Panchai Baajaa (Naumati Baajaa) the Tyaamko is formed by covering a bowl (approximately 15cm in height and 15cm diameter), made of either a soft wood called Chuwa or else of clay, with cowhide. Damaai caste musicians carry it around the waist and play it in the Tuna pultung rhythm by means of two small sticks. The Damaahaa, Jhurummaa and Dholaki are played at the same time and in the same rhythm as the Tyaamko.
The Jhurummaa is one of the foremost folk instruments of the Panchai Baajaa group and is also known as a symbol of the fire element. It is a pair of medium sized (20cm across) brass cymbals belonging to the Damaai caste. Leather or cloth loop handles are attached through central holes.
This instrument is a favorite of shepherds in the Himalayan area. It has four strings, an overall length of 75cm and is made from Gurrans wood. There is a carving of the head of a Shardul at the top of the neck. The body of the instrument is covered with sheepskin and the strings are of sheep gut. The Tungnaa is carried around the shoulder and a plectrum held in the right hand is used to play either melodies or rhythms when all the shepherds gather in evening after the meal. The full moon heralds a special time for playing the Tungnaa to accompany singing and dancing.