Nepali Musical Instruments

Nepalese musical instrument has a very strong relationship with Nepalese culture and religion. Nepal has a lot more tunes and rhythms of its own to share with the rest of the world. The musical traditions of Nepal are as diverse as the various ethnic groups of the country. The most complex musical culture in the Himalayas is that of the “Newars“ in the Kathmandu valley and the “Damai” in the other part of Nepal, which in the course of the past 2000 years has absorbed mostly Indian influences in shaping a unique musical tradition. In Nepal music has been flourished by mainly these two groups of people.
Newar’s culture flourished during the late Malla dynasty from the 15th century up to the 18th century. The Malla kings of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur were devoted patrons of the arts and competed with one another in the beautification and cultural achievements of their kingdoms. Many of these Malla kings themselves excelled as musicians, dancers, poets and town planners.
The Newars live in a Buddhist-Hindu area where the two religions coexist along with a strong influence of Tantric practices and local traditional cults. In the complex Newar caste system both Hindus and Buddhists have found their place. Many of these castes perform their own characteristic musical repertory and ritual duties during festivals and processions. Newar music and dance are always related to ritual and locality. A portion of Newar music is secretly performed during esoteric rites.
Bhaktapur, a Newar farmers’ town at the eastern part of the Kathmandu valley has been able so far to preserve its traditional heritage. In 1989 there were still more than 200 music and dance groups performing regularly. With the influx of tourism and western and far eastern technologies this picture changes rapidly. It is conceivable that these living cultural treasures may vanish within one generation. For the future there needs to be an effective method for the preservation of traditional music and dance.
The other group that has historic touch with Nepalese music is “Damai”. From the prospects of indigenous Nepalese rituals, culture and musical anthropology, the linkage of traditional musicians seems to be tied with the invention of "DAMAHA" (a flat drum generally structured by wood or metal and sometime even by roasted soil especially in "TABLA”, another type of flat twin being used in Nepalese music.)
In Nepalese society, special group plays musical instruments in ceremonies, occasions, etc. to perform the rituals and tradition. These traditional musicians are known as "DUM" as well as "DAMAI".
The Nepalese cultural way of perceiving things and words and explaining and naming them, the word "Dum" seems to be derived symbolically after the sound of the traditional Nepali musical instrument "DAMAHA" in the sense that if we listen to the beat of the "DAMAHA" the sound produce is more or less like "DUM". Similarly, the other word "DAMAI" denotes the functional linkage between "DAMAHA" and the person who plays it. The word "DAMAHA" is originated from "SANSKRIT" language. In "SANSKRIT" the person who plays "DAMAHA" is called "YAHA DAMAHA BADYATE". As per the traditional way of synthesizing the long sentences in Nepalese society the above three worded SANSKRIT sentence seems to be synthesized and joined as "DAMA+YAHA" to indicate the drummer and thus this word might have been converted as "DAMAI" in Nepali language.
The early "DAMAIS" later invented another traditional instrument like "sahanai". "DAMAIS" have been playing these musical instruments like sahanai for the generations in special MUHURATAS (time) of special sacred ritual ceremonies like "BRATABANDHA"(a Vedic Brahmanic ritual).
Still today we can see “Damais” playing musical instruments like “damaha”, “sahanai”, “tanpura”, “panche baja”, “narsingha” etc. in special occasions like marriage ceremony, bratabandha, festivals, etc.
Nepalese musical instruments have great importance in Nepalese culture and society. Nepalese musical instruments are played in special ceremony like wedding, bratabandha (a Vedic Brahmanic ritual), and welcome ceremony and in any other ceremony or festivals. Different musical instruments are found in Nepal. Most of them are produced in Nepal. Musical instruments like “madal”(Two sided drum), " sarangi" “damphu”, “damaru”, “basuri” (Flute), “sarangi”, “pancha Baja”, “ghunguru” (Ankle Bells), etc. There are several Nepali instruments, which are unheard, untouched and unexplored and Sarangi is one among them. sarangi musical instrument is played by sarangi. Nepalese musical instruments are enjoyed by all the Nepalese people especially on the occasions, festivals, or any other ceremonies. 

The bansuri (Hindi: बांसुरी,Nepali: बाँसुरी, Marathi: बासरी Assamese: বাঁহি, Bengali: বাঁসুরী) is a transverse alto flute of the Indian Subcontinent made from a single hollow shaft of bamboo with six or seven finger holes. An ancient musical instrument associated with cowherds and the pastoral tradition, it is intimately linked to the love story of Krishna and Radha, and is depicted in Buddhist paintings from around 100 AD. The Bansuri is revered as Lord Krishna's divine instrument, and is often associated with Krishna's Rasa lila; mythological accounts tell of the tunes of Krishna's flute having a spellbinding and enthralling effect not only on the women of the Braj, but even on the animals of the region. The North Indian bansuri, typically about 14 inches in length, was traditionally used as a soprano instrument primarily for accompaniment in lighter compositions including film music. The bass variety (approximately 30", tonic E3 at A440Hz), pioneered by Pt. Pannalal Ghosh and elevated to heights of global renown by the brilliance of Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia has now been indispensable in Hindustani Classical music for well over half a century. Bansuris range in size from less than 12" to nearly 40".

The Sarangi (Nepali/Hindi: सारङ्गी) is a folk Nepalese string instrument. Unlike Classical Indian Sarangi, it has four strings and all of them are played. Traditionally, in Nepal, Sarangi was only played by people of Gandarva or Gaine cast, who sings narrative tales and folk song. However, in present days, its widely used and played by many.
Traditional Nepali Sarangi is made up of single piece of wood having a neck and hollowed out body. Sarangi is carved out from a very light wood, locally known as Khiro. The body is carved into a hollow frame with two openings. The lower opening is then covered up with dried sheep-skin. The original strings were made out of sheep intestine, similar to the use of catgut (made from the intestines of cattle) in violins. The village people allotted intestines of sheep, sacrificed during major festivals like Dasain, to the Gandarvas. The Gandarvas left the intestine in a pot for some days. Once the meat was fully rotten, it was pulled out, leaving behind the fine nerves of the intestine which were then woven to get the strings, which produced fine quality sound.[2] However these days, readily available nylon and steel strings are more popular with Sarangi players as they do not have the time to prepare the traditional variety of strings.
It is available in various size. Sarangi has four strings and played with the help of a bow. Horse-tail hair, which is still used by violin players, was originally used for the bow string of the Sarangi but these days nylon strings are common. The strings are supported by two bridges and tuned by Kunti (tuner). The Sarangi’s neck is fretless and the bridge is seated on a skin stretched over the body of the instrument. Different notes are made by touching the strings with the nail of fingers of the left hand. Notes in traditional sarangi strats from G4 and almost covers two octaves. Traditionally, sarangi is tuned as G4 C5 C5 G5 or Pa Sa Sa Pa.

Maadal (Nepali: मादल) is a popular folk musical instrument which originates in Nepal. It is made of wood or clay. Both heads are played, holding the Madal drum horizontally. It is the most popular and widely used hand drum in Nepal. It is made of leather with a wooden body. Most Nepali folk songs are accompanied by the playing of Madal. In maadal there are two sides, containing big and small.
Madal is a hand drum which originates in Nepal. It is cylindrical in shape with a slight bulge in the middle. Its main frame is made of wood or clay, and the leather on two of its heads is what vibrates and produces the sound. Both heads are played with hands, holding the madal drum horizontally. This typical Nepalese percussion instrument is the backbone of most of Nepali folk music. The well-known Nepali musician Ranjit Gazmer introduced this instrument to Bollywood music and has used it in many Bollywood songs such as 'Hum dono do premi duniya chhod chale', 'Kanchha re kanchhi re' and many others.

*Panche Baaja*
Panche Baaja (Nepali: पञ्चे बाजा)is a set of five traditional Nepali musical instruments that are played during auspicious occasions. The jhyali, tyamko, or dholak (drums), damaha (kettledrum), narsiha (a long horn-like instrument), Shehnai (a pipe instrument), and Karnal, (a big-mouthed instrument) comprise the Panche Baaja.
Panche Baajas are usually played by Damais, a Dalit caste according to Hindu tradition.

Nepali Musical Instruments


  1. Bansuri is the best misic intruments that i like because i am use to it only . in the start i got a huge problem in playing it but after practicing day after day i am a expert in playing bansuri now :)

  2. thnx 4 it bt i need a short repor so, can u povide it?

  3. Very useful text, so happy to read your page

  4. Can you provide me the longest list of nepalese musical nstruments as far as possible? Please do it fast!!

  5. You had better consult to the owner.soory😢

  6. You had better consult to the owner.soory😢