This weekend, a three-day Gandharba festival showcasing the minstrel music of Nepal is being held at Yala Maya Kendra in Patan, an upcoming venue for social and cultural events. It is supported by a few corporations who feel there are longterm benefits in sponsoring events such as these.
While donor money will flow in for development, businesses prefer to look for more direct benefits, like visibility. This is the primary reason why a large number of Nepali products are endorsed by third grade Bollywood stars and sub-standard programs. The institutionalisation of sponsorship is a key issue in promoting the arts in Nepal.
There are surely companies that are putting in money or committing resources to make existing cultural events happen, but is it really in the interest of the Nepali arts? There is hardly any money for reviving traditional Nepali music. Gandharbas or panche baja remains outside the purview of satellite television or FM stations. While it is natural for companies to look for better mileage, they must share the responsibility for preserving Nepali-pan.
Corporations argue contributions for such events are not tax-deductible, therefore burdening their expense account. While the pure motive of supporting these programs is not saving taxes but promoting Nepali culture, it is also important for the state to encourage corporate spending in this sector. The government must not penalise contributions by recovering taxes on them. Yes, being Nepal, such provisions could be misused and that is why regulatory mechanisms must be put in place
Ashutosh Tiwari, who shares this space with the Beed, remarked a few weeks ago that Nepali art is making the transition from a hobby to a profession. It is important for this to be supported in order to have an environment where the arts flourish with legitimate money from the business world. As gazal and dance restaurants get bumped off for the increasingly popular Nepali dohari eateries, consumer tastes are becoming clear.
The shift is towards more authentic art and music. The challenge is for the corporate world to move in that direction too, as the medium of contact with consumers is getting localised. As corporates spend hundreds of thousands of rupees on advertisements to congratulate themselves on anniversaries, perhaps it is time to divert some of that money to promoting Nepali arts.