Bringing History Home: Transporting 40-years of Folk and Traditional Nepali Music Content from Germany to Nepal

News from the Field

The Nepal Music Archive (NMA) is Nepal’s first digital archive that documents music-related research, papers, and catalogues, and digitizes analog musical content. NMA builds a musical consortium of music-related resources by connecting to various libraries (personal and public), universities, archives and institutions, makes the portal accessible to Nepali students, musicians and music enthusiasts, as well as a global audience.

A large majority of research conducted in Nepali music is carried out by non-Nepali researchers (mostly from the global North). These research findings have either not been returned back to Nepal, or if they have, they are in the possession of a few individuals. The materials that are in Nepal are not easily available to the general public as a large part of them have either been donated to archives and museums abroad, or are locked away in private homes.

74-year-old German ethnomusicologist, Gert-Matthias Wegner, spent 40 years in the small city of Bhaktapur in Nepal, learning and documenting traditional Nepali music from 15 local gurus. During his time in Nepal, Gert not only conducted in-depth research on music played in different rituals, jatras, and cultural occasions specific to Bhaktapur and its local communities, but he also did comparative studies of the same tunes from different Newa communities within the Kathmandu valley and beyond.

Gert-Matthias Wegner’s collection includes 278 cassettes of audio recordings which include folk and traditional music, ritual songs, and cultural and indigenous performances from local communities in Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Patan, Thecho, Thimi, Panga, Badikhel, Sankhu, Lamjung, Dolakha, Dumre, Ligligkot, Kadari, Khumbu, and Gorkha. The audio recordings can be paired with site-specific photos taken by Gert at the time.

Nepal Music Archive (NMA) is thus establishing efforts in bringing and establishing the Gert-Matthias Wegner Collection in Nepal. NMA hopes their endeavors will ignite an active discourse and movement around repatriation.

Learn more about NMA’s works and their collections.

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