Nepalese community in Edmonton reconnects with culture through music
Music fills the air at the Juneli School of Nepali Language and Culture in southeast Edmonton, where about 20 children are learning to play instruments ranging from guitars to the traditional Nepalese sarangi.
The Juneli school is an extension of the Nepalese Canadian Society of Edmonton, which has used a $12,000 grant from MusiCounts TD Community Music Program, a national music education charity, to kick-start a music heritage program.
"Part of our organization's goal is we want to promote cultural heritage, music traditions to the young generation," said Nami Shrestha, vice-president of the Nepalese society.
The society used the grant money to purchase guitars, traditional Nepalese instruments and other equipment like microphones and speakers.
Samriddhi Shrestha, a Grade 12 student at Old Scona Academic High School, first learned the sarangi — a traditional Nepali stringed instrument — while visiting her family in Nepal.
The violin-like instrument is known for its soft yet haunting sound. It's held vertically, similar to a cello, and played with an arched bow made from horsehair.
The instrument is carved from a single block of wood, with two openings. At the base, lizard skin is stretched to cover the lower opening, keeping the sound stable and deep. Traditionally, the playing strings were made from sheep intestines, but Samriddhi said hers are nylon.
Listen to the music: |
"I'm practising at home, taking online lessons," Shrestha told CBC's Edmonton AM. "I want to include this into my own kind of music that I create later on so I can reflect on my culture."
Samriddhi volunteers with her parents at the Nepalese society during her spare time.
Her father, Deepesh Shrestha, is a music co-ordinator at the Juneli school. He's been introducing children to the sarangi and the tungna, a stringed instrument popular in the Himalayan region.
He said he has found it difficult to create interest in the instruments with children in Canada, and often has to give demonstrations.
"In Nepal, the kids would be looking at them and seeing these instruments and they would be interested right away," he said. "A guitar, everyone can play, but this instrument is something that's unique for them."
Children are taught how to play the instruments through virtual learning by teachers based in Nepal.
Nami said teaching children the Nepali language isn't always easy, but she has noticed the music is a good way to increase continued interest.
"I think they feel more comfortable and they enjoy learning more about our culture, our heritage," she said.
Edmonton's Nepalese society was established in 2000 to promote Nepalese culture, arts, music, tradition, and heritage.