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Building an Info-Forum Database for Audiovisual Records of the Gandharba Community, Nepal

Research period : April 2018‒ March 2020 / Project for Database Improvement (project period: max. 2 years)

Coordinator MINAMI Makito



This project seeks to develop and publish a user-editable info-forum database with content comprising selected materials from approx. 2,000 photos and 87 audio recordings (chiefly on 60-minute cassette tapes) of the musician caste and their performances in the Gandharba community of Nepal. These resources were accumulated as part of a JSPS grant-backed academic survey of Eastern and Western music exchange by Minpaku Professor Emeritus Tomoaki Fujii in 1964, 1968, and 1982. JSPS grants for scientific research have funded the publication of many academic accomplishments include a series of written works as well as numerous videos and compact discs. However, only very few of these audio resources have been released publicly, and many are out of print, thus limiting listening opportunities. Thirty to 50 years have passed since these resources were collected, thus adding to their academic value as historical windows on the periods when they were made. This project aims to build an internet-accessible database space that will allow researchers, musicians, members of the source community, and members of the general public to view and listen to these materials and engage in a free exchange of opinions and ideas. We seek to foster heightened levels of research on the music and performing arts of the Gandharba community through measures to restore and share these resources, particularly with the source community.


The impetus for this project was a 2015 cultural resource project that provided the source community with footage shot in 1982 in Bhotechaur — considered to be the original homeland of the Gandharba community — and produced new footage as part of a follow-up survey on the changes that had transpired over the intervening 34 years. That project prompted Prof. Fujii to consult with us on ways to fulfill his goal of providing the source community with photos and audio recordings he had taken of the Gandharba people and performances by their musician caste. Initially, we explored the idea of providing personal computers containing these data resources to the National Museum in Pokhara, the Folk Music Museum of Nepal, or to assembly halls or sarangi schools in Bhotechaur. However, we were aware that these communities faced difficulties in making needed equipment upgrades on their own, and that providing resources directly to the individuals portrayed in the footage, or to their families or surviving descendants would inevitably result in materials being scattered or lost. To ensure that the resource materials would be viewed and enjoyed on an enduring basis, we thus concluded that developing an internet space to share these resources and enable viewing and playback by anyone anywhere would be a better way to ensure their growth potential from the perspective of members of the source community as well. Taking these background factors into consideration, we accordingly proposed a project for the creation of an info-forum museum.
To share the resource materials with the source community, make them available to the broader international community, and create an info-forum framework, this project will build a shared database in English containing information that anyone (providing they meet all conditions) may input. The conceptual details for this database are as follows.
The database will incorporate portraits and photos depicting scenes of village life, musical instruments, and musical performances produced as part of a 1982 survey of individual villages in the Gandharba community (Daopatan, Bhaktapur, Kirtipur, Bhotechaur, and other villages in Kathmandu). An effort will be made to avoid redundancy in content and utilize those photos that are of good quality and well-preserved . The database will not include every resource material available. Each photo will be captioned with information including a title (as well as the names of photographed individuals), when and where it was taken, and the name of the photographer. Space (“plazas”) will be set aside for the input of comments from viewers. Persons involved in building this database will provide as much supplementary information as possible at the top of each comment field. Comments from external viewers that are defamatory or that infringe on the privacy of others will be deleted. However, examples set by earlier projects will be studied to aid in determining who will have responsibility for checking comment content, how frequently that task will need to be performed, and what policies will need to be followed after the project leader has retired.
Photos containing imagery of individuals that have recordings of sarangi performances will be labeled to their side with the titles of each composition; clicking on a title will allow users to listen to that performance (all compositions will be listed). The risk of unauthorized recordings and other copyright issues will be considered in determining whether the playable recordings will contain complete performances (the policy that will apply within permissible limits) or only a few minutes from their beginning. Although Minpaku owns video recordings of performances by some of the musicians, the decision whether to include them in the database will be an issue for further study. However, in view of the trend toward allowing users to easily access and play music videos on Youtube and other video sites, including the videos of these music performances arguably would be preferred from the standpoint of building a database with added user appeal.

Expected results

Note: Results also reveal what kind of database it would be.
It is anticipated that we will be able to build a database that contains about half of the total in available resources, including around 1,000 photos and 150 playable audio recordings of music performances by around 50 to 60 instrumentalists. If video recordings are added, users also will be able to watch performances by six or seven instrumentalists. Radio Nepal began operations in 1951. If our database includes the photos and audio recordings from 1964 or 1968, it will attract attention as a valuable resource in Nepal and can be expected to enjoy extensive use and stimulate the sharing of user views and opinions. Perusal of this database should enable users to confirm through the music itself the process through which the sound of the sarangi and its compositions have become part of Nepal’s national culture. Moreover, it should allow users to carefully investigate the differences in playing styles that arose through regional differences and influences on modern sarangi performance. On the subject of videos, Kutomba is a popular band that has rediscovered folk instruments and forms of folk music that are in danger of disappearing, and has brought them back to life with modernistic arrangements of old compositions on video and concepts for stage performances that display those videos on large screens. If that approach can be emulated, it would be expected to boost recognition of the database and foster the utilization of its resources for secondary purposes.

Annual Report

Outcomes from 2019

1. The state of the implementation of this year’s research

1. On March 31, 2019, we held a second workshop at the Minpaku. The workshop consisted of oral presentations (“Reconsidering the ‘Traditional Culture’ of Gandharba” by Izumi Morimoto and “Connecting and Liftoff with Tourism” by Makito Minami), a tour of the Traveling Music: The String Instruments of South Asia exhibit with commentary by Yoshitaka Terada, and a screening of the ethnographic film The Sarangi Players in Kathmandu (2019, 72 minutes 42 seconds, production supervision by Makito Minami), and participants discussed the latest insights from Gandharba research.
2. We filmed sārangī performances by Bhancha Pariwar as part of the “Fête de la Musique au Japon” events held at the Minpaku, to use as content material (June 23, 2019). On the same day, we screened the above-mentioned film to members of Bhancha Pariwar, and exchanged opinions.
3. When three performers from Batulecaur, an area subject to our research, visited Japan and performed at the “Minakoi World Festa” in Komagane City, Nagano, we interviewed and filmed their performance (October 21, 2019).
4. A search of the “Audio Materials Catalog Database” revealed that cassette tape dupes of sārangī performances in Nepal, recorded by the Ethnomusicology Research Team, led by Emeritus Professor Tomoaki Fujii in 1980 and 1982, were housed in the Minpaku. We digitized these materials and sorted them by performer and musical number, in order to create content. At the same time, we visited Emeritus Professor Fujii at the International Institute for Cultural Studies together with Yoshitaka Terada, to present him with the digitized audio data and organized list, and to get his permission to use and publish this content in the database. Work on the database is still ongoing.
5. A translation of the special feature, “Gandharba: Minstrels of the Himalaya Revisited,” originally published in Kikan Minzokugaku (Ethnological Quarterly) vol. 163, was commissioned in preparation for publication in English. Each author is currently adding/correcting their manuscript.

2. Overview of the research results (achievements of the research objects)

Work was delayed on the database as past audio data and photos, which were to be key content of the database, could not be obtained for various reasons. In November 2019, a joint researcher pointed out that cassette tape dupes of recordings made by Emeritus Professor Fujii et al. had recorded in Nepal in 1980 and 1982 were housed in the Minpaku, and we were able to begin digitizing and organizing materials. We expect to create and publish a database of about 190 songs by about 50 performers, mainly from the 1982 recording.

3. Records disclosing achievements (publications, public symposia, sectional meetings of academic conferences, electronic media, etc.)

Video productions:
• Production supervision by Makito Minami, The Sarangi Players in Kathmandu (2019, 76 minutes 42 seconds)
• Production supervision by Makito Minami and Tomoaki Fujii, National Museum of Ethnology Visual Ethnography vol. 35: Nepal’s Sārangī Music (2020, containing 77 minutes from the 2019 The Sarangi Players in Kathmandu and 60 minutes from the 1984 In Pursuit of the Sārangī)
Oral presentations
• Makito Minami, “Minstrels of the Himalayas: Changes to Nepal, as seen from the Gandharba,” as part of JOCV Nepal association’s “Open Seminar to Support Nepal,” AIMO Inter Culture House, November 16, 2019.
• Screening of A Village of Musicians in Nepal: Batulecaur Today (91 minutes 31 seconds) with commentary, as part of the Minpaku Film Show “The Gandharba: Nepalese Musicians”, at Theater Seven (January 15, 2020)
• Invited two members of the source community in Batulecaur and researchers from Tribhuvan University to the international symposium, “Interdisciplinary Research and the Info-Forum Museum Project,” and hosted two sessions and gave oral presentations (March 7 – 8, 2020, Postscript: Postponed due to COVID-19)

Outcomes from 2018

1. The state of the implementation of this year’s research

 The first research meeting, to which Inter-University Project Researcher were invited, was held in July. The composition and playing styles of the audio resources recorded in Batulecaur in 1982 were analyzed (Kaori Ito), the feature article of “Ethnological Quarterly No. 163” was jointly reviewed, and the future process and the significance of returning/cooperating in cultural resources were discussed. During a visit to Nepal, permission for uploading onto the website was obtained from the portrait right holders or their surviving descendants for the audiovisual recordings shot or recorded in 1982. In addition, sarangi musicians were interviewed and their performance was visually recorded as the database content for comparison with the audio recordings in 1982. The performance of the following players and “bands” was recorded:
1. Performance of “Anugraha” (GCAO, Kathmandu Guest House)
2. Performance by Karuna Bahadur Gandharba (under the instruction of Bharat Nepali)
3. Performance by Kiran Nepali (from Kirtipur, “Kutumba”)
4. Performance of Ramji, Mongol, Subba (GCAO, Hotel Manang)
5. Performance by Bharat Nepali (from Bhaktapur, now Swayambhu)
6. Performance by Prince Nepali (Kirtipur; “Smriti;” New Orleans Restaurant)
7. Performance by Krishna Bahadur Gandharba, Interview (GCAO; Tatepokhali, Gorkha District)
8. Interview with Deepak Gandharba (GCAO; Palungtar, Gorkha District)
9. Another interview with Deepak Gandharba, Production of the Sarangi (GCAO; Bansar, Tanahu District)
10. Performance by Manish Gandharba (“Fantastics;” Durbar Lounge)
11. Practice by Ajay Nepali and Samuel Gandharba (“Adapters”)
12. Performance by and Interview with Arjun Nepali (Bhaktapur)
13. Performance by and Interview with Manish Gandharba and Bikram Gandharba (Pashupatinath)
14. Interview with Pujan Gandharba (Chairman of GCAO, Sarangi Restaurant)
15. Performance by and Interview with Ashim Sherchan (“Kandara”)
16. Performance by Mr. and Mrs. Dan Bahadur Gayek (Batulecaur)
17. Performance of “Adapters” (Delima Garden Cafe)
 GCAO: Gandharba Cultural and Art Organization

2. Overview of the research results (achievements of the research objects)

 Discussions about the database content were deepened by holding research meetings. In addition, the portrait right holders or their surviving descendants for the audiovisual recordings shot or recorded in 1982 were visited, and their consent to disclosure was obtained after explaining the significance of uploading onto the website for sharing. However, when the database content is determined, written memoranda of understanding must be exchanged with them. Videos showing the current relations between the Gandharbas community and the sarangi, which will be used for comparison with the resources in 1982, could be shot as planned. On the other hand, owing to the transfer of Professor Emeritus Tomoaki Fujii’s office, audio recordings and photos in 1982 have not been yet acquired. Mr. Ram Bahadur Shrestha, an international research collaborator, was invited at the end of January 2019 to request him to organize and translate the new visual resources.

3. Records disclosing achievements (publications, public symposia, sectional meetings o5 academic conferences, electronic media, etc.)

Terada Yoshitaka
2018 Visiting Nepal after 34 Years, Asian-European Music Research E-Journal 1: 29-36.

[Video Production]
Minami Makito and Terada Yoshitaka: Editorial Supervisors
2018 Revisiting Batulecaur after 34 Years: A Village of Musicians in Nepal (Movie for Minpaku Visual Ethnography) 53 minutes
Minami Makito, Terada Yoshitaka, and Fujii Tomoaki: Editorial Supervisors
2018 Nepali Musicians, the Gandharbas (“National Museum of Ethnology Visual Ethnography; the 30th Issue”) 107 minutes

[Release of the Outcomes]
Revisiting Batulecaur after 34 Years: A Village of Musicians in Nepal, a movie related to this project supervised by Minami Makito and Terada Yoshitaka in 2018, was shown in the following four places:
Minami Makito and Terada Yoshitaka
On November 23, 2018, at the Mini Hall of the National Theater in Nepal (Kathmandu), the 8th International Folk Music Film Festival (November 21 through 24), received the Second Prize in the Best Long Film category, approximately 80 people.
Minami Makito
On December 6, 2018, NexUs (Kathmandu), Movie Night, Q & A, approximately 30 people
On December 10, 2018, at the Department of Sociology and Rural Development, Prithvi Narayan Campus (Pokhara), class for graduate students, discussion, approximately 40 people, including graduate students and faculty members
On December 11, 2018, at the auditorium of the International Mountain Museum (Pokhara), the 5th International Great Himalayan Festival, comments from Boj Bahadur Gayek (Director of Gandharba Development Center) and Bishwo Kalyan Parajuli (professor on the Prithvi Narayan Campus), and Q&A with the audience, sarangi performance by 8 musicians including Dan Bahadur Gayek, approximately 40 people.