Night: Reflections on Debut Album

March 30, 2015 , by Jerusha Rai, 2 Comments
Night: Reflections on Debut Album » My Dreams Mag
Night's debut album is a solution to many contradictions that trouble folk music today. It opens up the ways to preserve endangered musical traditions without compromising artistic integrity and individual innovation, the survival of folk music under the combined pressure of the regional cultural hegemony of India and the global dominance of the West and so on.

Ani Ukali, Sangai Orali, the much anticipated debut album by new-school folk band Night, presents a solution to many contradictions that trouble folk music today. How can musicians help preserve endangered musical traditions without compromising their artistic integrity and individual innovation? To what extent can the authentic characteristics be maintained if you also want to make the music comprehensible to wider audiences unfamiliar to those sounds? Can folk musicians have a sustainable career in the current music industry? How can folk music survive under the combined pressure of the regional cultural hegemony of India and the global dominance of the West?
A cultural document
Encased in a strikingly beautiful album cover, this collection of ten tracks can be seen as a crucial cultural document. The band, with several members who are also ethnomusicologists, has made every effort to research and train in endangered instruments from remote areas. Many of the featured instruments were never before so pristinely recorded with advanced technology, mixed and mastered by the widely respected Bishwo Shahi.
While ethnomusicologists have attempted field recordings for research purposes, nowhere can you hear this unique combination of instruments from different regions of Nepal along with the artistic intention to create original and personal work. The album consists of a beautifully illustrated booklet full with descriptions of featured instruments.

Ethnomusicologist and active musician Ganga Thapa, who is making way for Nepali folk in London with his band Namlo, is all praise of Night. “There is an urgent need for research and documentation, especially as we still can’t even point out what exactly authentic ‘Nepali music’ sounds like. There are fragmented folk traditions in regions isolated from each other, and mainstream ‘aadhunik’ (modern) music has a heavy Indian influence. Night is one band that can properly represent Nepali music by bringing together the country’s folk traditions and writing songs about social issues faced by Nepalis.”

Aesthetic attention
The album does more than just introduce Nepali folk, however. It impresses, showcasing what unique contributions Nepali folk can make to the world of music. The ten tracks include a variety of rhythms, structures, singing styles, melodies found uniquely among Nepali folk traditions.
The band has managed to explore the full musical potential of each indigenous instrument.
They have not failed to mention the soundscape awareness required in playing instruments like the ‘Paluwa’ (Leaf flute) or the technical prowess required to master the fretless Tungna or produce clear sounds from hand held cymbals, the Bhusya/Sisya. The album has gained the appreciation of musicians and listeners of different genres, effectively indigenizing non-Nepali elements like the guitar and electronic synths.

The song writing itself is impressive showing the poetic sensibilities of colloquial Nepali, not the official formal language that seeks cohesion or pattern, but the way it is spoken by ordinary locals. Inspired by the real experiences of communities the band visited, these are truly folk songs, or the song of the folk.

Samples of sounds from Nepali landscapes, like the forest noises heard on the track ‘Suseli’, firmly grounds the music to where it originated from, a place where the whistling of birds and humans alike can be heard for miles.

The band, with several members who are also ethnomusicologists, has made every effort to research and train in endangered instruments from remote areas.
Strategies for Nepali music promotion
Despite these efforts by bands like Night, Nepali folk music will struggle to survive unless strategic and management aspects develop alongside the music. A collaborative effort of ethnomusicologists, musicians and agencies like record labels and event management is required in order to make it a sustainable venture, and create long term career prospects for Nepali musicians.
The market for folk music is narrow within the country. In a relatively small population with low disposable incomes, musicians need to expand their reach outside Nepal. Night has effectively done that having found distributors like Subsonic Routes in London, an international music promotion agency/record label that was responsible for the Nepathya concert at Wembley Arena, that is soon to bring Cadenza Collective and Night on their UK tour.

They will also be touring the UK performing at the Shambala festival, famous for promoting folk and world music, on August 30th. The band will soon announce additional dates of its performances around the UK.

It is also necessary to present previously unheard style of music in a manner that is comprehensible and relatable to foreign audiences. Band members and management teams need to be able to explain their artistic concept as well as social mission clearly. Nepali musicians are also yet to make use of the channels and infrastructures that promote folk music and are under-represented even in networks specialising in Asian music promotion, for instance, the Asian Music Circuit in London.

Why folk music, anyway?
Of course, folk music preservation is not possible without the support of local communities and Diasporas around the world. But what is so important about folk music that the modern public needs to support it?

First of all, we can no longer exhibit our cultural peculiarity by attire, social structure, material culture, or even by our location, language or religion.

Music is one of the few things that can act as an emblem of ethnicity. It is a shame most Nepalis are not aware of the richness our music holds and the advancements neo-folk musicians are currently making.

In the entire history of music, there have been four global stages. The age of global industrial culture, the fourth one, is where we belong. Today, music has become homogenous, largely dominated by European influences. Global music has gone through the stages that saw nations with diverging cultures emerging, building music appropriate to its values, social structure, aesthetic and technology.

But even before those social structures and differences began, there was the first stage when music was beginning everywhere much the same way; all cultures roughly sharing an early history of music. Music, just like the early human societies, established a close relationship with nature, and with basic human needs. Folk music therefore expresses something common to all humans and has a huge potential to create emotional connections between people separated by social structures.


A review by Jerusha Rai.

To read more by Jerusha Rai on DREAMS, click here.
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Categorised in: Arts

2 comments on “Night: Reflections on Debut Album

  1. Reetu Joshi says:

    always been a huge fan of her since i saw her sing during a school performance! now this article among several is simply beautiful in a place where many dont know how to describe music. still a huge fan! jerusha di keep it up

  2. Kalyan Gautam says:

    it took me a while to discover the magic of ‘night’ but now that i’ve found it, i plan on being a lifelong follower. thanks jerusha for a wonderful piece as always!

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