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The Terai

November 9th, 2006

We leave Hum Bahadur and drive out of the Himalayan foothills to the northern edge of Chitwan National Park, where we spend a night in Jyamire with Shiva Gandharba’s family, a friend of ours from Kathmandu. Shiva’s father builds sarangis and there’s about 20 kids in and around the family compound to keep us occupied. Most of the locals here are sharecroppers, and quite poor, even compared to the Gandharbas we’d met in the mountain towns.

The next morning we drive deep into Chitwan to stay at with Manoj’s family in an area called Madi. Save for the odd solar panel, there’s no electricity around these parts. Vehicles don’t make it out here much, so the Mountain Music Project begins the latest phase of it’s aid work in the pursuit of folk music. In Nepali English we can now say, “The Mountain Music Project: Also Roads Building.” We hold our breaths crossing a few rivers, push the Kia through narrow riverbeds and finally pull out the shovels, rearrange rocks, and stack pieces of sod to get ourselves to Madi by nightfall.

It’s peaceful and hot in Madi, the lowlands filled with amber rice fields as locals harvest with short sickles. Since it’s in the middle of a national park with tigers, rhinos, and bears, people stay in most evenings, and we play music together by candlelight to the chagrin of our filmmakers. In the daytime we record and are also invited to a few local schools for which the Gandharba Culture and Arts Organization, along with our help, has provided a few scholarships as well as basic school supplies. We are serenaded with tea and marigold necklaces, and a few brave children practice their English.

In Madi we meet some elder Gandharbas who can still speak an old language even Buddhiman, Manoj, and Ganesh can barely understand. This Gandharba language is on it’s last legs, but we manage to record a few songs and interviews with the few who can speak it. Manoj takes us to a nearby lake and waterfall where we film Buddhiman playing a bit.

Can’t help but wish we had more time, but most of the crew is pretty weary from all this running around the last few weeks, and anyway we’re out of cash, so it’s back to Kathmandu to work on some studio recordings and filming interviews with the Gandharbas who’ve moved to the cities. We’ve been looking for the few Gandharbas who still go village to village, and, just as we’re about to climb in the van, an old Damai man comes to Manoj’s family compound and serenades us with his buffalo horn. The valleys glow as we follow the rivers back into the mountains and into Kathmandu Valley.

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