Kutumba: Intertwining Music and Social Justice
The band Kutumba, which means a ‘unique bond amongst community members’ in Nepali, demonstrated their Nepali roots of kindness and community as they welcomed us into their studio during their rehearsal (kutumbaband.com). When listening to Kutumba, one cannot resist the urge to move along with the music, smile as the joy of the musicians spreads across their faces and wonder about the culture behind the large variety of instruments. This Nepali folk band uses over fifty traditional Nepali instruments that they collect across the country in villages. In the hope of preserving their culture through music, Kutumba illuminates their sound with lights and larger productions than typically seen with this type of music. Kutumba’s sound is not only unique, but also the extraordinary social work connected to their music.
Their objective is to promote traditional Nepali music to the youth so that they may understand the value of their own music and inspire them to play. With over fifty different ethnic groups in Nepal, there are a huge variety of instruments, some of which can only be found in small villages. In their project called Hand In Hand, Kutumba travels throughout Nepal to find these unique instruments to add to their collection. Since all six members have a background in music, it only takes them around two weeks to learn the new instruments. After they are acquainted with the instrument, they perform with those who taught them for the village. They tell us how they’ve had so many interesting experiences during these travels, but elaborate on one that particularly stands out. A man with leprosy who had no fingers taught them to play a Nepali drum, which they found inspiring. An article was written on him and after spreading the light on him and his skills, the youth in his village began to learn from him.
Although a love for music is what brought the members of Kutumba together, their passion for social work drove them to continue to create projects to help their community. In 2010, they began their School To School initiative where they held concerts in which their payment was school stationeries. They were able to provide school supplies for an astounding 60,000 children with economic troubles in villages throughout Nepal. One of their most recent projects called Harmony in Diversity in 2013 pushed them further into social work by inspiring them to work not only for the music. They called it their ‘Old Nepal Tour’, which consisted of them playing with different ethnic groups during civil unrest. During this time the ethnic groups of Nepal were fighting for their identity, which created a tension Kutumba strove to loosen. Their goal was to show people that we are all one and to unite them through music.
When we asked the members of Kutumba what music means to them we heard a room full of passion. It was described as a tool to express themselves and emotion, a universal language not needed to be explained and “the meaning of life”. Seeing their combination of social devotion and musical passion is inspiring. When musicians use their platform to promote a positive change in society, it leads the way for future generations to make it the societal norm. In a world full of injustices, we need people that will stand up and fight for a society that balances old cultural normative and social equality.
If you would like to learn more about Kutumba, please visit their website www.kutumbaband.com.