Where have all the sarangis gone?

  • For the Gandarvas in Syangja, singing for a living is fast becoming untenable

Feb 12, 2017-Mohan Gayak of Putalibazaar, Syangja ekes out a living playing the sarangi, a traditional folk instrument associated with the Gandharvas, a clan of traditional wandering minstrels. But in the last few years, it has become exceedingly difficult for him to stay afloat with his only profession.

“The times are changing,” Gayak says. “I used to support my whole family by playing the sarangi but now it’s not possible. These days, I only play it sometimes: the newer generation equates it to begging.”

“It seems to me,” he adds, “with the advent of modern technologies, like Television and the internet, the new generation are not all that interested about the tunes we play. Previously, the venues where we would play used to be thronged by enthusiastic listeners, but now there are only sparse audiences, and most of them usually the eldery.”

The Gandarva community of Syangja is considered to be the pioneers of the folk genre, and lok dohori, a tradition popular in the Western region. Back in the day, the Gandarvas used to visit various villages playing sarangi to residents; taking folk tales and even current news from village to village. “But, today,” Gayak informs, “there are only four people in my village keeping up with the tradition.”

Another local and sarangi player Lal Bhadur Gandharva says, “People look down upon this profession and consider it as a form of begging, so I am not playing it anymore.”

He says that with the number of youths in the village dwindling, the age-old practice is on the verge of dying out. “Some have gone to cities to study and others abroad as migrant labour. We might as well be the last generation of Gandarvas,” he bemoaned before adding that if concerted efforts are not made to preserve the tradition, the unique culture of travelling with songs will soon disappear. 

Published: 12-02-2017 09:29

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