The Amazing Music of the Traditional Damai Musicians
The Damai musicians have a long and distinguished history, and are known for their dramatic and rhythmic performances during festivals. It is believed that the name, Damai, is derived from one of their most prominent instruments, a kettledrum that is known as a Damaha. Damai musicians are divided into specifically named groups, depending on the instruments and the ritual or festival that is related to the performance.
The most well known forms of Damai music are Naumati Baja, Panchai Baja and Nagara Bana. These groups consist of various numbers of Damai musicians and are used in different circumstances. Naumati Baja, for instance, is an ensemble that plays Damai music during festivals and certain rituals. Panchai Baja is another form of ritual and festival music, while Nagara Bana is a temple ensemble. Most of the focus has been, and still is, on the Panchai Baja and the Naumati Baja, and these two forms have been well documented over the years. These two forms of Damai music differ, as Panchai Baja makes use of only five instruments, while Naumati Baja has a massive combination of traditional instruments.
According to tradition, the life of a Damai musician was exclusively for men. Today, however, in various regions of Nepal, female vocalists have been allowed to join, singing at wedding ceremonies and smaller events. To hear the Damai women perform is an extremely rare experience, as their performances are very limited and usually not on display. There are a handful of woman that have been able to carve a career for themselves as Damai musicians.
Instruments used by the musicians that will be seen during their performances include various size drums, kettledrums, cymbals, horns and trumpets. The horn is called a Narsingha, which is a curved horn that is a very popular instrument through out Central Nepal. In the western regions of Nepal, the Karnal is a popular, natural trumpet. The combination of these instruments, in the capable and talented hands of the Damai musicians, can either captivate audiences with an emotional ballad, or be a source of energetic and hypnotic drum beats that keep festival goers dancing.