Kathmandu International Classical Guitar Festival 2013 indulged the music lovers of the city by bringing together guitarists from around the world. A festival celebrating the blissful sounds and possibilities of the classical guitar, this was truly an event to witness!
The jam-packed Baggikhana Hall of Yalamaya Kendra, Patan Dhoka maintained a deafening silence. The only resonating sound was from the guitar on stage. It seemed like a tiny disturbance, even that of a camera flash, could distort the ambience that had been created by the nylon strings. The hall was populated with both Nepali and foreign audiences in equal proportions, with people standing at the rear due to insufficient seats.
It was October 18, the second day of the Kathmandu International Classical Guitar Festival 2013. The two-day event organized by the Classical Guitar Society of Nepal had exclusively featured performers from around the globe, a first of its kind in Kathmandu in ten years. “The last festival was held in 2003. After that, we couldn’t continue mostly due to Nepal’s political situation and weak financial capability,” said Kishor Gurung, the virtuouso guitarist and president of the Society. It was, thus, a special moment after exactly a decade!
American writer Vera Nazarian once wrote, “If music is a place, then jazz is the city, folk is the wilderness, rock is the road, and classical (music) is a temple.” The sounds and theatrics of classical music in themselves hold an essential value in defining Western music, which has evolved through the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th Century avant-garde periods. But despite its rich history in the West, unlike other Western music styles, classical concerts are relatively rare in Nepal. The scenario is gradually changing though with the interest for this type of music growing among the younger generation. Daniel Lindel, one of the performers, as well as an organizing team member, said, “The primary objective of this festival is to enjoy the music of course, but, in a bigger sense, it’s to realize the possibility of taking this form of music and this type of repertoire to a larger scale in Nepal.” To this, Gurung added, “We just want to celebrate the guitar’s rich history, of which most of the youth seem virtually unaware.”
The festival also had a display of handmade guitars crafted by Japanese luthier Yuichi Imai who has been making the instrument for over 45 years now. His creations were played by a few of the performers, including Kishor Gurung himself. Regrettably, Pia G. Offerman, a performer from Germany, was a little discontented with the audience. “Silence among the listeners is important while playing classical guitar, but some of them were pretty disturbing yesterday. I hope it won’t be like that during my performance in a while,” she expressed before the gig. Offerman was performing for the second time in Nepal after 2003. Other guitarists in the festival included Leon Koudelak (Liechtenstein), Maria Duo (Japan), Tomonori Arai and Hitoshi Miyashita Duo (Japan), Woratep R. Umpawan (Thailand) and Pongpat Pongpradit (Thailand). Each session lasted about 20 minutes, all of them treating the audience to soothing and relaxing sounds that filled the air with a certain richness, while the listeners, in turn, admired the artists’ instrumental expertise and musical aesthetics in utter silence.
Regarding the two days of the fest, Lindel shared, “The attendance has been a wonderful surprise. To see the audience enjoying deeply is where we find this festival’s achievement. We’ve been talking about making this an annual event, and we already have it in our heads. We are focusing on this year, but at the same time, envisioning the future as well.” The festival ended with a Pokhara show on 21 October. !