It has been great fun for us to travel around meeting Gandharba musicians, listening to their music, and sometimes playing together. The fallback tune is Reshum Phiriri. It is a great love song, crowd pleaser that everybody knows and all the kids love to sing. Since it the one that they always call for, it is starting to feel like they are calling out for “Freebird.”
Some fun things for us are when we have a jam with the Nepalis that really clicks and gets that music magic going. We had one of those jams in a Terai (lowland) town called Jyamire playing Cluck Old Hen with our buddy Buddiman.
Another fun thing is when we get those culturally different moments when we get to teach each other culturally different concepts. Musically, we usually have 2 parts to a tune and play each part twice. That is really hard for them to get the feel of and remember, but is second nature to us. They tend to play a tune with two parts also, but put together differently and usually having an extra half part where the last line repeats again.
There are loads of non-musical differences that are fun too. Having spent a lot of time in Nepal and India we are very comfortable eating with our hands. This trip we got to bring some Nepalis out to a fancy restaurant with a western style of food preparation where they served big peices of uncut meat. Some had never used a fork and knife to cut meat. We showed them a few techniques and one girl settled on the old knife going between the prongs of the fork technique that I showed her. Danny said it reminded him of his first fancy dinner where he was the only one who had never used chopsticks.
We also got teach some Nepalis how to open car and van doors that said they had never attempted such a thing. Many places in Nepal still do not have roads and even in those places that do have roads there are some people who rarely ever would have reason to be in a car.
We get really into doing things that are really normal here that are not normal in the US. For example, what to do when the power comes back on. In Nepal, one should never assume that because one has electricity now that it will still be on in 10 minutes. The fun thing is that when it comes back on you can go really fast between your forehead and chest three times. It is like a quick prayer or showing of respect. One also touches things to ones head here to show respect. So, if someone pays you money, or gives you a book one might touch it to their head to show respect to it.
One thing that can be difficult in trying to have our evening front porch jams in the Nepali villages is the speed with which the sarangi (Nepali fiddle) and modal (Nepali drum) climb out of tune, while our mandolins and guitars are holding steady. The sarangi is in an open tuning and the songs and tunes are all in the key that it is tuned to. Sometimes we have started in G, then within a few songs they have climbed up through G#, then to A and beyond. Do we chase after or keep trying to pull them back? Different days we chose different ways of handling that depending on the cultural situation. One does not want to slow down a Nepali musician with their eyes closed that is really on a roll at a party.
In Kathmandu, we are now trying to start recording a CD project. The fusion process should be interesting since each tradition hears sometimes a different natural arrangement and feel of the music for the same tune. We should probably both expand our ideas somewhat during the process as we share ideas.
On a side note, our guest house has a very friendly guard rabbit named Poppy who roams around at his own free will and never makes a noise to disrupt practice. Obviously, Poppy is very considerate and sensitive to our musical needs.