According to a 2001 Census, there are 92 different languages in Nepal alone, stretching across a population of 27 million people. Blues music has become the newest addition to the composite culture there, and you can’t help but wonder just how the sound will change after being adopted by this rich cultural region. Just barely four decades after it arrived, flying below the radar in Nepal, the blues has had a growing interest with young, enthusiastic musicians. They have become inspired to marry the musical roots of the blues with their own unique eastern experiences.
A musical style called Pune Blues was developed by a regional musician by the name of Sagar Sarkar. His performances during the 1980’s and 90’s took a grassroots approach, gradually wining over audiences at intimate night clubs and at private house parties. He has been granted the title ‘Godfather of Pune Blues’ by local musicians and regional fans.
The Himalayan Blues Festival is an event which has been taking place every year in Nepal since 2007. The idea behind the festival is to combine various genres of blues music from the U.S. with Nepalese folk traditions. Along with the local musicians from the region, several guest performers from other countries have also taken to the stage. Pugsley Buzzard from Australia performed at the festival back in 2008.
It’s great to know that the blues still remains very lively within the world music community abroad. In order for the blues to exhibit its relevance to younger audiences everywhere it needs to continue attributing its songs, lyrics and general vibe to current, real-life circumstances.
Blues music in the future will most likely branch off away from its American roots. As we can see, blues music festivals like the one in Nepal will certainly encourage a whole new generation of musicians to gradually cultivate their own sound. Someday as it passes on to those in other cultures it will eventually be transformed into something familiar, but inevitably it will become something completely new. As the blues takes root in the Indian interior it will be interesting to hear just how it evolves there. While musicians from around the world embrace the blues in regions like Nepal, it’s very likely that in the next hundred years we’ll be listening to an amalgam of rich sounds — like it or not — sounds that could challenge the popular notion of what blues music should sound like, at least the way it has been experienced throughout the west in the twentieth century.