Kutumba – Bringing Nepali Music to Life

The folk instrumental ensemble from Nepal, Kutumba, aims to blend traditional folk tunes and musical instruments with new improvised sounds and ideas. It is fitting that they have chosen to name their group of seven musicians Kutumba, as this is a word that has special meaning in the Nepali language reflecting a unique and strong bond between members of a community, something which can be enhanced by the power of music.

Arun Manandhar is the tungna player in Kutumba. This stringed instrument (similar to a banjo or guitar) is prized for its exquisite design and its melodious tone. The tungna was traditionally made out of the wood of the white rhododendron tree, but due to the unavailability of this wood, more recent tungnas have been made from the wood of the Salla tree, beautifully carved with various designs. The strings were traditionally made from sheep’s intestines, but the newer tungnas have nylon strings, which most agree does not lessen the appeal of the instrument.

Binay Maharjan plays the flute which he mastered six years ago under the guidance of Ram Krishna Duwal and he is currently studying with Raman Maharjan. His musical inspiration comes from Latin and classics as well as fusion and rock. Rubin Kumar Shrestha has completed a Bachelors course in classical music, and although he plays the flute in Kutumba, he also knows how to play 15 musical instruments.

One of the percussionists for the group is Pavit Maharjan, whose skill on percussion instruments is a binding force for their music. Pavit showed musical talent early on in life and, besides managing his shop and being a member of Kutumba, he teaches keyboard at Shuvatara School. Raju Maharjan, who also teaches music at Shuvatara School, has the talent for playing many percussion instruments and is considered to be one of the best percussionists in Nepal.

Rashil Palanchoke started testing out his musical talent on the guitar, but upon hearing the Sarangi being played, he decided that was the instrument for him. This unusual stringed instrument, which is unique to Nepal, is played with a bow – similar to a violin. Rashil is very interested in indigenous Nepali instruments and often takes trips to villages to learn more about them. Siddhartha Maharjan is the youngest and newest member of Kutumba. He provides the effects for the group with a variety of sounds from the Ghungaroo to the Jhyamta.

The musicians that form Kutumba have the common goal of developing Nepali folk music and making it appealing to all, including the younger generation. They want to spread the love and joy of Nepal’s folk music with the aim of preserving their culture and art. With each member coming from a different musical back ground, these highly motivated young men have created their own unique sound which is becoming increasingly popular.