Songs from Kathmandu Ballots are still being counted in Nepal a week after the election. A young musician in Kathmandu offers a unique take on the Nepali Democracy Movement and the new constitution.
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Songs from Kathmandu

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Songs from Kathmandu

Songs from Kathmandu

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

The kingdom of Nepal may not be a kingdom much longer. Ballots are still being counted from an election last week, but once the results are in, a new constitution will be written and the monarchy may be abolished.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Producer Jack Chance traveled through Nepal. When he was there he met a musician whose music helped inspire that country's democracy movement.

(Soundbite of Nepalese Song)

Mr. RUBIN GANDHARVA: (Singing) (Through Translator) The first time I was arrested was at Drapna (ph) park when I was 12 years old. The UN bailed me out of jail, but the police broke my sarangi.

JACK CHANCE: The Nepali sarangi is basically an upright fiddle. It's the traditional instrument of minstrel musicians of the Gandarva caste. For a long time, groups like the Gandarvas were called dalit, meaning they were forbidden to come in contact with higher castes or even share water from the same well. They were considered untouchable in Nepal's monarchy.

(Soundbite of Rubin Gandharva singing)

CHANCE: During violent political protests in 2006, 16-year-old Rubin Gandharva found himself singing at the forefront of massive democracy rallies. People called him Nepal's answer to Bob Dylan.

(Soundbite of Rubin Gandharva singing)

CHANCE: He got this song from 76-year-old Humba Hado Gandharva (ph) who used to travel the countryside singing songs about the cruel nature of the caste system.

(Soundbite of Unidentified Nepalese man singing)

Unidentified Man # 1 (Nepalese): (Through Translator) We have always moved from village to village singing and creating awareness about the movement. Whenever there have been protests and agitations, there has always been a Gandarva there singing even though he's dalit

CHANCE: These days the caste system is officially abolished in Nepal, but same as anywhere, old prejudices dies hard.

Unidentified Man # 2 (Nepalese): (Through Translator) I still have a lot to do until everybody is equal on one level. No ups and downs, no big and small.

(Soundbite of Unidentified Nepalese man singing)

BRAND: Jack Chance's story comes to us as part of the new NPR series Hearing Voices. Day to Day returns in a moment.

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