Music of Nepal

Music of Nepal refers to the various musical genres played and listened to in Nepal. With more than fifty ethnic groups, the music of Nepal is highly diverse. Genres like Tamang Selo, Dohori, Adhunik Geet, Bhajan, Filmi music, Ghazal, Classical music, and Ratna music are widely played and popular, but many other less common genres are yet to be cataloged. Western musical genres like Rock, Metal, Hip-Hop, Rap, R&B also regularly feature on the Nepalese music charts. Most of the country's musical bands are based in the Kathmandu valley. Musical genres from Tibet and India have greatly influenced Nepalese music.

Music of Nepal
General topics
Specific forms
Media and performance
Music festivalsGoon lā
Music media
Nationalistic and patriotic songs
National anthem"Sayaun Thunga Phool Ka"



Dohori is a genre of Nepali folk music and has roots in the rural courtship traditions. In Nepali, Dohori literally means from both sides or a debate. This debate is in musical rhythm, and involves quick and witty poetry. The two teams taking part in a Dohori usually involves boys and girls in rival teams. The song starts with a question, usually from the boys' side. The girl follows the question with a quick response and the two teams continue the musical conversation.

Dohori songs can last for as long as a week. The length of the Dohori depends on the quick thinking ability and wit of the players.[1]

Adhunik Geet

Adhunik Geet or modern songs are popular songs in Nepal and is also known as sugam sangeet. These of songs are soft and melodious. One of the most famous singers of this genre was late Narayan Gopal who was also known as a "Swar Samrat" meaning King of 'Voice' in Nepali and gave hits like "Euta Manchhe Ko", and "Yeti Dherai Maya Dii". Aruna Lama was one of the well-known singers of Nepali music.[2] She is popularly known as the "Nightingale of the Hills". She has sung hundreds of Nepali songs.[3]

Narayan gopal02
Narayan Gopal


There are numerous professional classical musicians in the Kathmandu Valley. Bands such as, Sur-Sudha,[4] Sukarma,[5] Trikaal,[6] Kutumba [7]are popular and well known in Nepal. Classical music organizations such as Kalanidhi Indira Sangeet Mahavidyalaya,[8] Nepal Sangeet Vidyalaya, SK Gurukul Sangeet Pathshala, Narayan Music Academy, Gandharva Sangeet Vidyalaya, Shree Sangeet Pathshala, Kirateswor Sangeet Ashram, Kapan Sangit Sarowar, Yalamaya Kendra[9][10], Ram Mandir, Gurukul Sangeet Pathshala, Atul Music Memorial Gurukul[11] etc. have been continuously contributing towards the development of Nepali classical music.

Ethnic music

Maithili Music

Maithili Music is one of the most ancient types of music in South Asia . It originated from Mithila region which is now divided between India and Nepal. No on knows exactly when Maithili Music came into existence, probably due to the length of its history, but its age indicates that it might have helped other music develop and flourish in India and Nepal.

Although Maithili music is usually played by classical instruments, it has been modernized and now uses various modern instruments. Some significant contributors to this music style are Maha Kavi Vidyapati Thakur, Udit Narayan Jha and Sharda Sinha.[12]The region's folk songs are associated with the various events in the life of an ordinary person.

Hira Devi Waiba
Pioneer of Nepali folk songs - Hira Devi Waiba

Tamang music

The Tamang community is well known for the Damphu, a traditional instrument. Tamang Selo music is accompanied by the Damphu and Tungna. It is said that British people derived the idea of making drum sets from Damphu during their stay in India. Western and Indian instruments influences are also seen in some modern Tamang Selo music.

Hira Devi Waiba is hailed as the pioneer of Nepali folk songs. She has sung about 300 songs throughout her musical career of 40 years.[13] After Hira Devi Waiba died in 2011, her son Satya Waiba and daughter Nanveet Aditya Waiba took upon the task of reviving her songs, re-recorded them with a new sound and released them in Navneet's voice.[14][15] They named the album 'Ama Lai Shraddhanjali - Tribute to Mother'.[16]

Newa music

Newa music, also called Newar Music, is a form of traditional music developed in Nepal by the Newars. The music has its roots in classical Hindu and Buddhist music and evolved with the incorporation of folk music of the Kathmandu valley and its peripheries. Instruments used are mainly percussion and wind instruments. Notable Newar singer Narayan Gopal. Regarded one of the cultural icons in Nepal, he is referred as "Swar Samrat" (Nepali: स्वर सम्राट, meaning: Emperor of Voice) in Nepali music. He is also known as "Tragedy King" owing to his numerous tragedy songs.

Danchhi gramophone record
Gramophone record of the song "Danchhi ya alu" by Madhan Krishna Shrestha

"Dhime" a traditional drum, is used by the Newar People in many occasions.

Gurung music

Gurungs have an ancient tradition of Rodhi [17] where young people meet, sing and dance to folk songs, and share their views. Young men and women at Rodhi often sing the Dohori. Some musical dances like Ghantu and Chudka are still in existence, and is performed in many Gurung villages. These dance forms are centuries old and are performed either solo or in a group. Music also plays a big role in the Gurung ritual of Argum, which is performed when someone in the community dies.[18] Notable Gurung singer - Khem Raj Gurung.

Kirat music

The Yakthungs (Limbu) have various forms of songs, dances and musical instruments. Of them, Dhan Naach (paddy dance)[19] and Chyabrung (Dhol Nach "drum dance")[20] are most popular. Khambu celebrate Sakela, a dance performed during the occasion of "Udauli" and "Ubhuali" which is the most important festival of Khumbu (Rai, Kirat). Sakela which is sometimes wrongly referred as Chandi Naach. Chandi is a Hindu goddess and is not related with the Kirat culture. Many dance forms involve rituals and religious offerings towards Mundhum.

Magar music

Salaijo, Kauda and Sorathi are the three exclusive musical genres of Magar music.[21]. Notable Mangar singer - Master Mitrasen Thapa Magar

Sherpa music

Sherpa music is based on Tibetan Buddhism. It is similar to music of Tibet around the trans-Himalayan region. Tibetan music is mostly religious music, reflecting the influence of Tibetan Buddhism.

"With influence from Tibet, this Nepalese music is characterized by unison singing and occasional accompaniment on the damian, a stringed instrument in the lute family that provides a strong rhythmic base. The musicians generally sing in Helambu (a Sherpa-Tibetan dialect) and sometimes in Tibetan on themes of religion, a desire for material wealth, the natural landscape, and a “sense of an ordered world in contrast to the nomadic pattern of many peoples’ lives” (Bishop). Liner notes include a description of the village and its music, track notes, and lyrics in Helambu/Tibetan and English".[22]

Tharu music

Tharu music is also one of the ancient types of music still played in Nepal. The Tharu people sing songs like Sajana, Maghiya, and Dashainya mostly in the western parts of Nepal.

Music Influenced by other regions of the World

Musicians singing devotional songs

These are musical genres which were introduced to Nepal from outside and thrived.


A bhajan is a devotional song praising and sometimes calling upon the Gods. It has no fixed form; it may be as simple as a mantra or kirtan. It is usually lyrical, expressing love and prayer for the Divine. Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu and Sai Baba bhajans are popular in Nepal.[23] Notable Bhajan singers Bhakta Raj Acharya, Koili Devi Mathema.

Filmi music

Filmi music is popular in Nepal and produced for mainstream motion pictures. Cinema in Nepal has a short history hence filmi music is still evolving.


The Ghazal is a poetic form of music consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, with each line sharing the same meter. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of pain, loss and separation, beauty of love and nature. It is a delicate form of poetry and music. The form is ancient, originating in 6th-century Arabic verse. Ghazals spread into South Asia in the 12th century owing to the influence of Sufi mystics and the courts of the new Islamic Sultanate in India and South Asia. Although the ghazal is a form of Dari and Urdu poetry, its influence can be seen in the poetry of many languages of the Indian sub-continent. Motiram Bhatta introduced the written form of ghazal in Nepali language circa 1890. Seturam Shrestha (1891-1941) has been credited with pioneering ghazals in Nepal.[24]

Western music


Pop, Hip Hop


With the growth and development of the Nepali music industry, different award ceremonies are held in different parts of the country, some focusing local talents. Awards of national level are held each year by some media houses, namely Hits FM,[25] Image FM,[26] Radio Kantipur Music Awards.[27]

Atul Memorial Music Gurukul,[28] was established in 2003 in memory of Nepali Tabla Maestro Atul Gautam. Since then the organisation has been awarding Nepali classical maestros once a year on the occasion of Atul Jayanti.


  1. ^ "Dohori Geet". Archived from the original on 2016-12-28.
  2. ^ Media, Lumbini. "Narayan Gopal MP3 Songs Free Download". Lumbini Media - Nepali News and Entertainment Portal, Daily Nepali News Updates From Lumbini, Nepal. Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  3. ^ Roy, Barun (2003-09-01). Fallen Cicada: Unwritten History of Darjeeling Hills. Barun Roy.
  4. ^ "Sur Sudha - Playing for Change". Playing for Change. Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  5. ^ "Sukarma".
  6. ^ "Himalayan Jam: World music group Trikaal blends Nepali folk music with Indian, jazz and Latin sound | World Music". Retrieved 2018-03-01.
  7. ^ "Kutumba (band) | World top Artists - first nepali infotainment web". Retrieved 2018-02-26.
  8. ^ "::Kalanidhi Indira Sangeet Mahavidyalaya:: The very ancient traditional, folk and classical music is living heritage of Nepal". Archived from the original on 2017-09-17. Retrieved 2017-10-03.
  9. ^ "Yalamaya Kendra". Archived from the original on 2018-02-15.
  10. ^ "Heritage center". Archived from the original on 2018-02-15.
  11. ^ "Atul Memorial Gurukul". Archived from the original on 2017-07-27. Retrieved 2017-10-03.
  12. ^ "Maithili Music of India and Nepal : SAARC Secreteriat". SAARC Music Department. South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation. Retrieved 26 August 2016.
  13. ^ "Pioneer of Nepali folk songs". 2011-01-20.
  14. ^ "Daughter revives mother's songs". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  15. ^ "Songs of Tribute". Archived from the original on 2017-12-12.
  16. ^ "फरिया ल्याइदेछन् तेइ पनि राता घनन !". Sambad Post. 2017-11-04. Retrieved 2018-03-12.
  17. ^ "Rodhi Ghar".
  18. ^ "Death ritual music of the Gurungs". Archived from the original on 2018-02-15.
  19. ^ "Dhan Naach". Archived from the original on 2018-02-15.
  20. ^ "Chyabrung Dance". Archived from the original on 2018-02-15.
  21. ^ "Magar Kauda Dance".
  22. ^ "Music of a Sherpa Village".
  23. ^ "Bhajan".
  24. ^ "Seturam Shrestha" (PDF).
  25. ^ "Hero Hits FM Music Awards 2074 | Wave Magazine". Retrieved 2018-03-04.
  26. ^ "Image Award".
  27. ^ "Radio Kantipur Music Awards".
  28. ^ "Atul Memorial Gurukul".

29. ^ Fiddler's Green, an indian band in reviving the folk music of Nepal. Members include Arko Mukherjee, Diptanshu Roy (dolinman), Shamik Chatterjee and Ritoban Das

External links

Culture of Nepal

The culture of Nepal is intertwined with the culture of the border Indian subcontinent and Tibet. The cultural heritage of Nepal has evolved over the centuries. This multi-dimensional heritage bounds the diversities of Nepal's ethnic, tribal, and social groups, and it expresses in music and dance; art and craft; folklore and folktales; languages and literature; philosophy and religion; festivals and celebration; foods and drinks. Its culture is mostly influenced by Indian culture and Tibetan culture.

Damphu drum

A damphu, or damfoo (Nepali: डम्फु), is a percussion instrument similar to a large tambourine. This instrument is used by the Tamang people to play the melodious Tamang Selo. According to folklore Damphu was invented by Peng Dorje a Tamang King and named it after Nepal's national bird the Daphne bird.

The Damphu and Tungna are the main instrument of the Tamang people and these two instruments are said to be the 'nail and flesh' on a finger.

Dapha music

Dapha music (Nepal Bhasa: दाफा) is a Newa artform in which singers and musicians perform devotional music, based on classical raga and taal system. The music is performed by a group of musicians called Dapha khalah in places called dabu. Dapha is the oldest surviving devotional music of Nepal, with its origin in the 17th century. The dapha music saw a growth in the early 18th century with royal patronage. It expanded during that era to include sets of nine different drums that are standard today.


Dhaa (or Dhah) belong to the membranophone group of Newar traditional musical instruments. It is a kind of drum specially played during the month of Gunlaa, the ninth month of Newar calendar. Dhaa is also known as "Gunlaa Baajan".

It is made of a hollow wooden trunk covered at both sides with animal skin. The left side is covered with a thicker skin producing flat sound whereas the right side is covered with thinner skin producing sharper sound.

The Dhaa is played by a group of even number of people standing. The instrument is suspended with a belt over the right shoulder. Dhaa is always accompanied with Taa and Bhushyaa along with the tunes from some aerophones.


The dhyāngro is a frame drum played by the jhakri (shamans) of Nepal—especially those of the Magars, the Kirati, and the Tamang—as well as by Tibetan Buddhist musicians.

The dhyāngro may be either single- or double-headed. Double-headed drums are said to have a male side and a female side. The drumhead, which is made from animal skin, is struck with a curved beater fashioned from cane. The frame may also be equipped with jingles. Like the na drum of Tibet, but unlike most frame drums, the dhyāngro usually has a handle. The carving in the wooden handle of a dhyāngro may be quite intricate; owing to Buddhist influence, the handles of some drums are fashioned into a kīla.

Dohori Song

Dohori (Nepali:दोहोरि) is a type of Nepali Folk song usually sung by two teams of men and women. It is in the form of question and answer where a team sings a question and the opponent replies through an equally lyrical impromptu couplet and vice versa. The term Dohori, means 'back and forth' and refers to the exchange of lyrical phrases between the contesting singers. The song production is collaborative and involves many individuals.Like all Nepali Folk Songs Dohori originated in the rural areas of Nepal and now is sung in both rural and urban settlements alike and is quiet popular amongst the Nepali speaking diaspora in the UK, US, and Bahrain. The men and women sit on opposite sides and the goal is to keep improvising until one team runs out of witty answers. The Dohori is said to have stretched to seven days and nights during the past.

Hits FM (Nepal)

Hits FM (Nepali: हिट्स एफएम) is a radio station based in Kathmandu, Nepal. It is a subsidiary of Hits Nepal Pvt. Ltd., which was established in January 1996. It went on air in April 1996. It is now available 24 hours daily on 91.2 MHz. Its philosophy is to hire presenters who are "fresh" - thus ensuring originality and also the ability to shape the presenters in accordance to overall goals and objectives of Hits Nepal Pvt. Ltd.Hits FM maintains a weekly music chart. The most followed charts are Hits Xpress (Bollywood songs), Megatops Chart (English songs), and Hits Countdown (Nepali songs).It is one of the most listened-to FM stations in the country, with one of the highest-rated shows. It is ranked among the top 40 radio stations in the World (Asia, Africa, Australia, South America) by UK and Irish Radio Stations broadcasting on the Internet.

Khas music

Khas Music originates from the practices of the Nepali Khas society.

Castes like Damai, Gandharva, Gaine play musical instruments and sing during festive occasions of the Khas people. Due to modernization this practice has almost disappeared and mass electronic media like television, internet is quickly taking over as means of entertainment especially in the Kathmandu valley.The term Khas Music as a genre is on the decline too as the term Khas itself is obsolete. The Khas people have adopted surnames of Chettris and Bahuns.

List of Nepali musical instruments

This is a list of traditional musical instruments played in the music of Nepal.

Music of Asia

Asian music encompasses numerous different musical styles originating from a large number of Asian countries.

Musical traditions in Asia

Music of Central Asia

Music of Afghanistan (when included in the definition of Central Asia)

Music of Kazakhstan

Music of Kyrgyzstan

Music of Tajikistan

Music of Turkmenistan

Music of Uzbekistan

Music of East Asia

Music of China

Music of Hong Kong

Music of Japan

Music of Korea

Music of North Korea

Music of South Korea

Music of Mongolia

Music of Tibet

Music of South Asia

Asian Underground

Music of Afghanistan

Music of Bangladesh

Music of Bhutan

Music of India


Music of the Maldives

Music of Nepal

Music of Pakistan

Music of Sri Lanka

Music of Southeast Asia

Music of Indonesia

Music of Laos

Music of Malaysia

Music of the Philippines

Music of Singapore

Music of Thailand

Music of Vietnam

Music of West Asia (Middle East)

Arabic music

Music of Bahrain

Music of Jordan

Music of Iraq

Music of Lebanon

Music of Palestine

Music of Saudi Arabia

Music of Syria

Music of the United Arab Emirates

Music of Yemen

Music of Armenia

Assyrian/Syriac folk music

Music of Azerbaijan

Music of Cyprus

Music of Georgia

Music of Iran

Music of Israel

Diaspora Jewish music

Kurdish music

Music of Turkey

Narayan Gopal

Narayan Gopal Gurucharya(Nepali: नारायणगोपाल गुरुआचार्य) (October 4, 1939 - December 5, 1990), known professionally as Narayan Gopal and N. Gopal was a prominent popular singer and composer of Nepali music. Regarded one of the most significant cultural icons in Nepal, he is referred as "Swar Samrat" (Nepali: स्वर सम्राट, meaning: Emperor of Voice) in Nepal. He is also known as "Tragedy King" owing to his numerous tragedy songs. He also sang in Nepalbhasa.

Owing to his vocal range he was capable of singing songs of every Nepalese genre. Often, his songs were accompanied by the sitar, harmonium and flute. He was also a music director during the 1950s to the 70s and belongs to the first generation of professional Nepali singers. His songs have been showcased in several movies and dramas across the country.Narayan Gopal released 137 songs during his lifetime, his first songs were composed by his friend Prem Dhoj Pradhan and his teacher Manik Ratna.Gopal is one of the most celebrated and influential musicians of the 20th century and received many awards during his lifetime.

Nepalese hip hop

Nepalese hip hop, is the Nepali form of hip hop. Its elements include MCing, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti writing. Rap culture was introduced in Nepal through the electronic DJs mixing the classical Nepalese songs with the Western urban style. Later, it took the form of artists releasing songs with the commercial beats.

Nepalese rock

Nepalese rock refers to rock music culture of Nepal and Nepali-speaking regions in Sikkim and West Bengal and some parts of Bhutan and Burma.


The Nepalis (English: Nepalese; Nepali: नेपाली) are citizens of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal under the provisions of Nepali nationality law. The country is home to people of many different national and ethnic origins. As a result, people of Nepal do not equate their nationality with ethnicity, but with citizenship and allegiance. Although citizens make up the majority of Nepali, non-citizen residents, dual citizen and expatriates may also claim a Nepali identity.

Nepal is a multicultural and multiethnic country. Nepali are multilinguistic group that speak 123 languages as recorded in 2011 Nepal census. Kathmandu Valley, in the middle hill region, constitutes a small fraction of the nation's area but is the most densely populated, with almost 5 percent of the nation's population.


Nepathya (Nepali: नेपथ्य also spelled as Nepathaya) is a Nepalese music band that was formed in the early 1990s by three students from Pokhara while studying in Kathmandu, Nepal.They started recording songs which after 25 years have made them the greatest band ever of Nepal. Nepathya is best known for blending folk melodies with modern western-influenced rock music. Nepathya has enjoyed both commercial and critical success. Nepathya is well known for contemporary tunes that have strong ties with indigenous music and songs sung using regional dialects from rural Nepal.

Outline of Nepal

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Nepal:

Nepal is a landlocked sovereign state in South Asia. The country is bordered to the north by China, and to the south, east, and west by India. The Himalayas in the country's northern region has eight of the world's ten highest mountains, including Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali.

Tamang Selo

Tamang Selo (Nepali: तामांग सेलो) is a genre of Nepali Folk song sung by the Tamang people and widely popular amongst the Nepali speaking community in Nepal, India and around the world. It is usually accompanied by Tamang instruments, the Damphu, Madal and Tungna. A Selo could be very catchy and lively or slow and melodious and is usually sung to express love, sorrow and stories of day to day life.Hira Devi Waiba a is hailed as the pioneer of Nepali Folk songs and Tamang Selo. Her song 'Chura ta Hoina Astura' (Nepali: चुरा त होइन अस्तुरा) is said to be the first Tamang Selo ever recorded. Waiba has sung nearly 300 songs in a career spanning 40 years.

Tamang people

The Tamang ཏ་མང (Devnagari: तामाङ; tāmāng) are the largest Tibeto-Burman ethnic group within Nepal and traditionally Buddhist by religion. Constituting 5.6% of the national population at over 1.3 million in 2001, increasing to 1,539,830 as of 2011 census, yet contested. Tamangs are also a significant majority in Sikkim and Darjeeling District of West Bengal, India as permanent settlers; their languages are the fifth most spoken in Nepal (note all Tamang languages are not mutually intelligible). They are considered as one of the indigenous people of Nepal. Peculiar to Tamang people are complex marriage restrictions within the community.


The Tungana (Nepali: टुङ्ना) is a plucked string instrument from Nepal. It is made from a single piece of carved wood. The front hollow body (which serves as the sound-box) is covered with stretched animal skin on which the 'bridge' sits. The Tungna has four strings which is anchored to the keys and body at both ends and the 'bridge' acts as a cantilever thus maintaining the tension of the strings.

It is mostly played by the people in the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal mainly the Tamang people during auspicious occasions, gatherings and festivals. The musicians play the Tungna and sing songs, which they compose themselves especially to welcome the New Year or during the harvest season. Most households of this mountain region have at least one Tungna in their house.

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