Describing themselves as a ‘new-school folk band’ Night have sought out traditional instrumentation and stories of day to day life from throughout their native Nepal, blending these influences together to create a body of material aimed at raising the profile of traditional culture and contemporary socio-political matters.
In their song lyrics they dwell on some serious issues such as poverty, the impact of natural disasters, and the failures of government in dealing with these things, so perhaps it is appropriate that their performance in the Sage Gateshead’s Hall 2 was mostly a sedate affair. If at times some of the introductions felt a little forced and the stage presence a little nervous, I believe that they would have been more at ease in a slightly less formal performance setting, especially having since heard the band talking in a more open fashion during two radio sessions (BBC Radio 3 & SOAS Radio).
That said, there were some lovely moments when the group let their hair down a bit, as for example during the lively final set of the first half, when one member jumped up to the front of the stage in a flamboyant, strutting dance and we got a glimpse of real performance spontaneity unleashed. The theatrical entrance of the bands Paalua player was also a great bit of staging, emerging on stage from the wings blowing a piercing fanfare from his needle wood leaf.
For me they were definitely at their best during the more upbeat numbers, when they had built up layers of instrumentation starting from the booming dhol-like hand drums and clashing cymbals so resonant of a mountain culture, to sinuous sarangi and piwancha lines and strong declarative vocals from the whole band riding over the top. Night also bring a strong message, that Nepal is a country with many problems, but with much joy also, and that is something worth celebrating.
The world of folk music is, nowadays, experiencing a revival where artists struggle to find a balance between traditions, integrity, and individual innovation. With the album, Jhalka Raya Buka, the Nepali band Night offers a new-school folk packed with plenty of respectful reminiscences and additional field recordings of Nepal’s musical…