Folk music (git lok) is an important aspect of life in Nepal, particularly during festivals and holidays. The maadal double-ended drum plays a focal role, often accompanied by the harmonium, murali (bamboo piccolo) or bansuri (flute). A group member will strike up a familiar verse, and everyone joins in on the chorus.

Folk music traditions vary among the country’s many ethnic groups, but the true sound of Nepal can be said to be the soft, melodic and complex music of the hills. Jhyaure, the maadal-based music of the western hills, is the most popular. Selo, the music of the Tamangs, has also been adopted by many other communities. Meanwhile, the music of the Jyapu (Newari farmers) has a lively rhythm, though the singing has a nasal quality.

The improvised, flirtatiously duelling duets known as dohori, traditionally performed by young men and women of the hill tribes, have become the soundtrack of modern Nepal. You’ll hear them on personal radios, mobile ringtones and bus music systems, as well as in the dedicated rodi ghars (nightlife restaurants), and will soon come to recognize the repetitive back-and-forth, him-then-her structure, with wailing flutes and unison choruses punctuating each verse.

While folk music is by definition an amateur pursuit, there are two traditional castes of professional musicians: wandering minstrels (gaaine or gandarbha) who play the sarangi (a four-stringed fiddle), and damai, members of the tailor caste who serve as wedding musicians.

Essentials

Everything you need to know before you set off.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Nepal features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Nepal, two years on: why the time to go is now

Nepal, two years on: why the time to go is now

In April 2015, Nepal hit global headlines when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated the country, killing almost 9000 people. Two years on, Nepal continues to…

03 Jul 2017 • Daniel Stables insert_drive_file Article
Stunning documentary on Nepal shows restoration of the country's sites

Stunning documentary on Nepal shows restoration of the country's sites

"The only thing you could focus on was the fact that the earth was moving from side to side by about eight to ten metres." These are the words of Kathmandu resi…

07 Jun 2016 • Lottie Gross videocam Video
Painting the town red, pink, green and yellow: Holi Festival 2016 in pictures

Painting the town red, pink, green and yellow: Holi Festival 2016 in pictures

Every year, Hindus around the world celebrate Holi Festival: the festival of colours. The event attracts many non-Hindus to take part, too, with hundreds of p…

24 Mar 2016 • Lottie Gross insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month