Barta Gandharva’s petite figure belies her powerful voice and sarangi skills. A native of Bhojpur, Barta first learnt to play the traditional Nepali violin from her mother with whom she travelled around villages earning a living. Today, the 27-year-old performs at concerts, rubs shoulders with popular bands like Kutumba, but says making a living is as difficult as it was then.
“Wherever I go, people ask me if I can play the guitar or the keyboard. The sarangi is not appreciated much,” says Barta who is a member of an all-female Nepali folk band, Shree Tara.
Barta studied music at Lalit Kala Campus and sarangi at Nepal Music Centre on a scholarship. Now she teaches at Norway’s University of Agder and Nepal Sangeet Vidyalaya. She also taught sarangi to students at Ani Choying Drolma’s Arya Tara School for seven years before the classes were cancelled by management citing lack of funds.
She feels that since the sarangi is mainly being used for fusion music, the importance of traditional singers like her has decreased which makes grooming a new generation of female musicians difficult. “Maybe because they see no future in this field so even good students drop out. It is sad when this happens,” she says.
Barta wants to pursue a graduate degree in singing, but laughs saying that it may be unrealistic: “Look at how much I had to struggle, nothing has happened even with all this hard work.”
Barta is currently working on an album, most of which she composed while in Norway.