If you live in Nepal or have visited us at some point, you’ll know that musical instruments are an inseparable part of our identity. From the heart-wrenching shrill of a Sarangi to the low booms of a Dhimay, from the sharp plucks of a Tungna to the melodious charm of a Murali, folk instruments are a big part of our Nepali culture. But it’s an indisputable fact that despite the efforts of folk music enthusiasts all around our country, many of these instruments are slowly dying out.
Amidst this gradual degrade, many efforts are still being made to conserve this vast culture of ours. The Music Museum of Nepal, Baja Nepal, etc. have played a significant part in helping to preserve these folk voices. Notably, it’s interesting to see developers show an interest and attempting to digitize these sounds. Native Instruments, the company behind famous audio-library based software Kontakt, is one of them. These audio-librarians have sampled numerous of our instruments and digitized them for use by music producers all across the globe.
Among the Nepali dev scene too, numerous apps have popped up that attempt to capture this essence to place them in the palms of users. Today we’ll be looking at one of them, a lightweight app with a catchy name: Madal Padkam.
Madal Padkam: (Let’s play it!):
The Madal Padkam app features the two sides of Madal, a famous Nepali percussion instrument. The right side of the screen holds the larger side of the Madal while the left holds the narrower hand. The right side of the Madal plays a low boomy bass sound, more commonly referred to as the ‘Dhing’. The left side plays the sharper ‘Taang’ sound when played in the center. A muted ‘Taak’ sound plays when hitting at the rim. A button is available that flips the sides of the Madal.
The Madal is an inseparable part of our music, providing a rhythmic backdrop in our Nepali folk and neo-modernistic styles. Since Nepali instruments rarely use a stringed bass like western music, most of our bass is provided by this compact instrument that fits at the hip of a lively player.
Talking about the app once again, it fits all the categories of a proper Madal app. The sounds don’t feel overly digitized either. That being said, we’ve noticed a slight lag between the tap and the sound playback at times. But the app is only out in the beta stage right now, so we hope this is something the developer fixes in its official release.
Digitizing sounds: A necessary stepping stone
While we can’t ever hope for an app or digital audio library to truly capture the essence of actually holding a madal or a sarangi in our hands – feeling through the bumps in the leather or the ridges in the handcrafted wood frame, we can undoubtedly say that this will be a turning point for people who want to try these instruments out but don’t want to invest a lot of money in the real deal right away. This can also be a great way to share out musical heritage with people internationally, after all – digital products don’t have boundaries.
What do you think of this app? Do you think we’ll ever come close to digitally recreating our folk instruments? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!