WOW | Music Conversation

TUNES OF TRADITION PANCHE BAJA

Purwakalika Naumati Panche Baja has been performing since the past 20 years. Prem Pariyar, the founder of the band claims that he is the first person to officially start the Panche Baja service in Kathmandu. Anushka Shrestha from WOW interviews him to learn about the significance of this traditional music.

Tell us about your band

We have three groups and each group consists of 9 to 11 members. The first group consists of boys aged from 13 to 17 years. The second group is aged from 20 years to 30 years, and the third group consists of members aged 30 years and above. Shehnai, Dhalaki , Dhamaha, Jhyali, Narsingha are our signature instruments.

What made you form the Panche Baja band?

Initially Panche Baja was only acknowledged and played in villages. As I was born and brought up in Ramechhap, I used accompany my elders when they played. This stirred my interest in the Panche Baja. At the age of six, I started playing the Shehnai which is a difficult instrument to learn. Even now, it is rare to find people who can actually play Shehnai and Narsingha. I dropped out of school after the seventh grade as it was difficult to balance school and play the Shehnai.

Then, I learnt to stitch clothes with my father and it paved my path to Kathmandu. After entering the city, I worked in a garment store in Thamel for about six years. I noticed that the Panche Baja was not practiced here. So I put up a board outside my room that notified people of the availability Panche Baja. Someone from Nuwakot came to meet me. He was the PA of the Foreign Minister. He told me that the Minister’s son was getting married and asked if I could play for them. That was when I gathered some of my friends and we played at the event; our first in Kathmandu. We got a lot of appreciation and we decided to continue serving people with our music.

What is the cultural and spiritual significance of Panche Baja?

Panche Baja is considered to be the most important Baja in the history of Nepal. Initially the groups of Bajas were divided according to different castes, but Panche Baja was considered suitable for all castes. It is also believed that the Kul Devata (ancestral deity) also demands the music of Panche Baja. Panche Baja is also played during the death anniversary of a family member to mark the purification of the family.

How many days in advance does you band need to be booked?

At least 15 days prior but bookings are even done six months in advance during special occasions.

How much do you charge?

It depends on how many musicians the client demands. If we send nine musicians, the rate is Rs 35,000 but if we send 11 musicians, the rate is Rs. 40,000.

It is said that each occasion has a different tune that signifies the actual event taking place. Is this true?

Yes, this is true. Even in a single day of marriage, different tunes are played according to the ceremony, for example there is a different tune played while the groom applies sindoor on the bride, while the tune played is different when the groom and bride encircle the fire of the ‘Mandap’. The tune played during Bratabanda ceremony is completely different. Usually Lord Shiva’s songs are played during this event, however Mangal Dhun is considered suitable for any event, it is a sign of good luck.

What is the future of this genre of music?

Panche Baja’s popularity is growing; we have almost 200 Panche Baja bands in Nepal.