This books presents the musical life of the Newar town of Kirtipur, Nepal. Newar musical traditions are prominent in the local musical life, and this heritage is presented in some detail in the book. Between the vivacious peaks of musical activity from the traditional ensembles, however, modern music from radios and cassette-players take over much o the town’s soundscape. So the role of the media in local musical life is the book’s second major theme. A third major theme is how the vibrant ethnic and political movements help shape the town’s musical activity. With their rich and complex civilization, the Newars have given the Kathmandu valley of Nepal much of the unique culture and cultural heritage. Music and media in local life was first published in 1989, and is still today the only study of Newar musical life in a full book format. This is the second, update edition of the book.
About the Author
Ingemar Grandin wrote his M.A. thesis on Nepali modern songs (adhunik git) in 1984, and went on to do his Ph. D. fieldwork in Kirtipur in 1985-1988. He lived with his family in Lalitpur in the 1990s and returns regularly to the Kathmandu valley. The author is presently a senior lecturer at the department for the study of social change and culture at Linkoping University, Sweden. He has investigated amateur music making in Sweden and contributed to the study of transnationalism among “write” people in the world outside the west. But research on Nepali Music and musical life remains his primary commitment.
The original edition of this book was published in 1989. It would have been nice to revise this new edition – to correct where I was mistaken or where later research has expanded our knowledge, and generally bring the work up-to-date with the research literature. The special issue of the European Bulletin of Himalayan Research devoted to music – vol – 12 – 13, 1997 – contains valuable bibliography of work on Nepali as well as in European languages. To mention only what has been written in European languages, quite a pile of books and dissertations – by Kishor Gurung , David Hendersion, Pirkko Moisala, Anna Stirr, Carol Tingey, and Hans Weisethaunet – as well as shorter writings has now been added to the literature. Beside the scholar already mentioned, Laurent Aubert, Franck Bernede, Robert Boonzjer-Flaes, Paul D. Greene, Gerard Toffin, and Richard Widdess have made important new contributions. And the maybe most important new development is the Department of Music at Kathmandu University that has been esrablished by Gert-Matthias Wegner, and where he shares with the student both his ethnomusicological scholarship and his own musicianship. Moreover, my 1989 text would benefit from being tidied up. The three key words (beside “music”, of course) of the book’s title reflect what can easily be seen as different foci. Basically the book is a rather straight-forward ethnomusicological study of local life, of the musical life of a particular place. But it can also be read as a study of music and media – the modern Nepali musical genres and the institutions that have supported them – or as a study of the Newar musical heritage. Moreover, the musical side of social movements is a strong undercurrent throughout the text. These divisive tendencies were built into the research project already from the beginning. In 1984, when the I drew up the initial plans, the study of popular music and eithnomusicology were very much two different and largely unconnected research areas. I felt that ethnomusicology tended to neglect everything outside the authentically “traditional”, whereas popular music studies were much too confined to the record industry and its best-selling artists. So what I wanted to do was to carry out a traditional ethnomusicological field study of a reason location, however with the impact of modern, mediated music as its very focus. That the research was to be done in Nepal was already settled – my Master’s thesis was on Nepali modern song – but when he arrived in Kathmandu in August, 1985, the selection of a suitable site for the fieldwork was still to be done. It could have been anywhere; for a number of reasons it happened to be Kirtipur. This being decided, it clearly required research also outside the fieldwork site: on Newar traditional music as well as on modern, mediated music. Thus I spent considerable time in Kathmandu and Lalitpur interviewing artists and others. To address all this and to carry out the revisions suggested above would in fact mean to rewrite the entire text. With suitable additions, the material could be reworked into, say, an ethnographically oriented monograph on music on local life plus one booklet on Newar music and one on modern music, each with a clear and consistent focus. The idea of such an enterprise unfortunately crashed with the time it would require, and moreover, both the text and the material on which it is based seem a little old by now. So this new edition is essentially a reprint of the 1989 text, though with changes in lay-out and illustrations, and with the inclusion of a glossary (which for practical reasons was printed on a separate sheet in the original edition). This means that I had better suggest suitable ways to read the book as a study on Newar music, as a study of music and media, and as a study of music in local life respectively.
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