16-22 January 2015 #741

A sound hunting for a home

A Nepali flutist haunted by a mystical sound
Stéphane Huët

When a mystical sound of bansuri is heard on the streets of Thamel, it’s very likely to be from an album of the Nepali flutist, Manose. Although the musician has been away from Nepal for a long time, his music still resounds in his motherland just as Nepal is a constant inspiration to his career abroad.

“From Russia to Brazil, passing through Israel, many places have become close to my heart,” he says. “But wherever I go, I always keep the energy of the beautiful high Himalaya in my heart.”

That same energy initially inspired Manose to become an artist. “When I was eight, a mysterious sound came through the night to haunt my soul,” he remembers. He searched for that sound, and only the sound of air being blown through a hole in a bamboo pipe came close to what he heard that night. “I found that sound in the notes of the bansuri,” he recalls.

Manose has been travelling the world in search of this sound, playing in 25 countries since starting his musical career. He is currently in California returning from a tour of South America. He found Peru to be the closest to Nepal in terms of landscape, culture, folk music and instruments, especially the sound of the Inca pan flute.

Manose first left Nepal in 1998 when he was 20 for a tour with the Nepali tabla player, Homnath Upadhayaya. Like many youngsters of his generation, he went to the West excited to be at the source of a pop culture he idolised growing up.

There he found that many artists like The Doors’ John Densmore or Sting, have instead been inspired by the musical and spiritual culture from the East. “They were seeking what I had as a boy playing bansuri for hours in the premises of Pashupatinath and Boudhanath, without realising it,” he says.

Sitting in front of holy places of Kathmandu, Manose was playing by intuition and copying tunes from the radio. He later took lessons from Madan Dev Bhatta, his first guru. 

“Nepal had so much to offer at that time,” he says recalling the opportunity to play different genres with great Nepali bands like jazz with Cadenza, pop riffs with 1974 AD, healing hymns of Ani Choying and classical ragas with Sukarma.

While travelling, Manose still seeks musicians to play with. One of the most meaningful musical relationships he experienced has been with New Age musicians Deva Premal and Miten.

“Sharing with them has opened my mind towards conscious music as well as it’s a kind of homecoming,” tells Manose. Another much awaited encounter will be with the Slovenian pianist, Zoran Škrinjar.

For now, Manose is currently working on a solo project incorporating nature sounds. “I usually record ambient sounds with a Roland field recorder during my travels,” he says, and has recorded thunderstorms in Greece, a brook in Shivapuri National Park, rainforest sounds in Costa Rica, birds singing in Australia.

Manose still hasn’t managed to capture the exact sound he heard that night as a child. This quest remains symbolic for his personal journey and creative impulse.

Says Manose: “I guess my inspiration is drawn from the same boy, still haunted by that mystical sound wherever he is.”

Read also:

Dance with abandon, Sunir Pandey

1974 AD Rock Yatra

Colours of the night, Stéphane Huët