Hiring a Hindu Brass Band for a wedding in Kathmandu?


Everest Band Baja January 2015 at Mangal Durbar.

Enjoy this:

UPDATE: I linked to this on a FaceBook group named “Kathmandu Expats” and the first few replies came from Nepali guys who said they didn’t like this style, panch baja was better. I am writing for the videshi audience, not the Nepali guys. Also, if somebody wants a blog on panch baja music, they should write one. I am not stopping anybody.

This blog is mainly to focus on my second book, The Sacrament of the Goddess. It’s a novel, written to bring to life the issues and challenges of medical care in a Low Income Country. The medical side of the novel  directly reflects the medical reality of Nepal. For narrative purposes, it is set in a small hospital run by Missionaries in the rural Hill Country, which is why so many other blog entries here are devoted to Beni, Nepal.

But today let’s look at a different side of Nepali culture. Brass bands.

embouchure 3

I didn’t get the name of this band, and the photo omits the percussion section. At the wedding of a friend. The guy in the middle exhibits “Gillespie’s Pouches.

Everyone wants a wedding to go like this:

The song is a sentimental one that covers the feelings of the dad as he watches his daughter grow; any father who has ever given a daughter in marriage is guaranteed to get teary-eyed. But the band in the video? Everest Band Baja. Of course.


The above is one I took in 2011 at the wedding of a Nepali friend, featuring the Nepali Police Band. They are more “military” than the usual band in my opinion; most of their members have degrees in music.

You see these wedding parades in Kathmandu, especially in winter during the auspicious season for weddings. It is customary to hire a brass band to serenade the groom at the house the morning of the wedding, then to lead a parade from there to the venue for the wedding ceremony, playing background music while the puja takes place, and finally to play at the feast.

Click here to see a playlist of available videos I made, on YouTube.

Traffic? Hah!

Traffic in Kathmandu is chaotic even on a good day, but there is a rule that not even the King could stop a wedding parade (they still follow the rule even though the last king abdicated a few years back).

Everest Band Baja

There are dozens of bands, but I want to focus on The Everest Band Baja, based in Patan, possibly the grand-daddy of all such bands. They have been in business for about fifty years. They run two 16-person groups to handle the demand.

This tells how to hire the band and a bit about the history.


I have put together a playlist of bands. Everest Brass Baja is well represented but the list includes others. I was told by Everest Band Baja they prefer not to be video’d because then the other bands steal their arrangements.


You can get a sticker for your laptop.

Here is a tease:

About six years ago I worked with Everest Band Baja to make a FaceBook page. They were the very first Kathmandu wedding band to have one. I am not a fan of FaceBook these days, but we all found out one thing: FaceBook seems to have helped them get gigs.

If you think about it, the young people getting married are the generation that uses FaceBook every day in Nepal (everyone has it) so it is natural for them to search for a band there.

Musical analysis

There are many styles of music in South Asia, and in Nepal there is also such a thing as a “paunch baja” which features the Shennai. The Everest Band Baja guys always ascertain whether the employer wants Nepali, Newari or Bollywood tunes.

The key to the clarinet? it is always mimicking a woman’s voice, and the better players are able to add the melisma the way Shreya Ghoshal would do. ( on that link, be sure to focus on the last fifteen luscious seconds!)

Other Brass Bands

You would think that FaceBook would never intrude on such a traditional activity. But though Everest Band Baja was the first to get their own FaceBook page for purposes of publicity ( and is still the best band, in my opinion), it seems that everybody else has now followed suit:



https://www.facebook.com/Annapurna-Band-Baja-670039573188099/  https://youtu.be/JwZDmAlmy4s





https://www.facebook.com/Gauri-Sankar-brass-band-narayantar-942558862570224/ featuring shennai: https://youtu.be/nC0baY9_HZk

https://www.facebook.com/Band-Baja-Golfutar-402186263582275/ here is video of them playing “Chumma Chumma


https://www.facebook.com/yubakbrassbandbaja/ Chaubahil https://youtu.be/8DjhzTXAzyY


https://www.facebook.com/laxmi.bandbaja/ https://youtu.be/2wGBZIfGyso

https://www.facebook.com/Fortunebandbajanepal/  https://youtu.be/Fz8tC45KAMI


https://www.facebook.com/ShreeJugambarBrassBand/    https://www.facebook.com/ShreeJugambarBrassBand/videos/2270142316365966/https://youtu.be/cAai4_Addjc


I will add more

The above list was easy to gather. I’m sure there are more out there and when I get them I will add them. Some of these guys are new at this – their FB pages do not always give actual contact information as to how to hire them!

Directory of Brass Baja in Nepal

I was delighted to see that somebody else began a directory. Click here.

In Western consciousness

This is a genre that remains on the edges of western consciousness. I suppose two items need to be mentioned. The first is the Jaipur Kawa Brass Band of India, which put out a CD of Hindu wedding music in 1997, Fanfare Du Rajasthan This was an enlightenment for many interested in world music. The second is a bit older and more obscure: Frozen Brass, a musical anthology released in 1993. At the time, Smithsonian Magazine ran a feature on the musical anthropologist who collected the tunes.





About Amanita Phalloides poisoning

This will be brief.

As described in The Sacrament of the Goddess, Amanita Phalloides is a mushroom that is found in damp forests of Nepal, and I had the experience of meeting victims of this poison – all of whom died.

(If you must know: it was a family of five. Three boys, their mom and their grandfather. It was lingering and unsettling.)

The incident is described in detail in the book.

In The Atlantic magazine, a well-written piece describes mushroom ecology.

Click Here: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/02/deadly-mushroom-arrives-canada/581602/

Very well done.

Here is a picture of Amanita:


Amanita Phalloides. My personal advice? stay away from all wild mushrooms.

These exist in Maine, my adopted home state: https://bangordailynews.com/2012/10/03/outdoors/foraging-for-fungi-from-maine-to-mario-land-2/

There is no antidote.



Where to get Saree-style #applique in #Kathmandu

Here is an unusual gift idea. Especially if you like to sew.

A friend in USA asked me to buy a saree that had those sewn-on decorative brocades. You know the ones I mean. She said she was thinking of displaying it in her home as a form of wall art, but maybe cannibalizing it by cutting out the medallions and using them as accents on some other clothes she wore.

Ooooo Nooooooo!

I told her don’t cut such a beautiful thing into pieces. I have got just the thing!

Indra Chowk of course!

Go to Indra Chowk, and to the right of the temple, is a small street with a dozen or so shops that sell these. I learned a new textile term today – “applique” – for this sort of ornament.


to the right of the Indra Mandir. About a dozen specialty shops catering to the fashion trade.


Here is a photo collage of the sort of piece they sell:

Tourist tip: When you get to Kathmandu, take time to explore this area general known as “Ason Tole”, it’s just as amazing as the monuments and heritage sites.


Why are we surprised when Buddhists are violent?

April 18th update: The stats tell me of a sudden surge of readers from – (drum roll please)  – Canada. Yes, Canada.

Would somebody from there please let me in as to why such a burst of interest from there? send email to joeniemczura@gmail.com

On March 5th 2018 the New York Times published a piece exploring the issue of violence in Myanmar, where the Buddhist majority has committed genocide against the Muslim minority, the Rohingya.

Most adherents of the world’s religions claim that their traditions place a premium on virtues like love, compassion and forgiveness, and that the state toward which they aim is one of universal peace. History has shown us, however, that religious traditions are human affairs, and that no matter how noble they may be in their aspirations, they display a full range of both human virtues and human failings.

While few sophisticated observers are shocked, then, by the occurrence of religious violence, there is one notable exception in this regard; there remains a persistent and widespread belief that Buddhist societies really are peaceful and harmonious. This presumption is evident in the reactions of astonishment many people have to events like those taking place in Myanmar. How, many wonder, could a Buddhist society — especially Buddhist monks! — have anything to do with something so monstrously violent as the ethnic cleansing now being perpetrated on Myanmar’s long-beleaguered Rohingya minority? Aren’t Buddhists supposed to be compassionate and pacifist?

The link is: https://nyti.ms/2FUOFvF

Thich Nhat Han

It was under the bodhi tree in India twenty-five centuries ago that Buddha achieved the insight that three states of mind were the source of all our unhappiness: wrong knowing, obsessive desire, and anger. All are difficult, but in one instant of anger—one of the most powerful emotions—lives can be ruined, and health and spiritual development can be destroyed. With exquisite simplicity, Buddhist monk and Vietnam refugee Thich Nhat Hanh gives tools and advice for transforming relationships, focusing energy, and rejuvenating those parts of ourselves that have been laid waste by anger. His extraordinary wisdom can transform your life and the lives of the people you love, and in the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, can give each reader the power to “change everything.” ( from the book blurb to “Anger” by Thich Nhat Han

One wonders whether the people in Myanmar have read Thich Nhat Han’s book. I tend to think they did not.  I have, it’s a good read, and it does address the community response to anger expressed by individuals.

The Sacrament of the Goddess

This issue is central to my second book, The Sacrament of the Goddess.  I wrote the book to explore the issue of anger and injustice in Buddhist culture. Buddhist philosophy devotes attention to calming the anger within each person, but it is not enough for a Buddhist to reject anger and violence and stop at the personal level.


My book is my humble offering to those wishing to look at this issue as it affects communal violence. You can order it on Amazon.

What Every Nepali needs to know about Blood banks and blood transfusion in Nepal April 28, 2074


Executive Summary:

1)know your blood type.

2) get on Twitter if the only reason is to follow @YouthForBlood

3) esp if you are AB ( + or -)

4) join their Nationwide FaceBook page or one of the local FaceBook pages. https://www.facebook.com/groups/youthforblood/

5) watch this inspiring Nepali-language video and share it with everyone you can think of:


I am on Twitter.  There was a tweet.

I read the Tweet because I follow  @ShiwaniNeupane  and she always has interesting perspective.  I have not read her novel, Crossing Shadows, but the reviews were excellent.

Another of her followers, a videshi from UK,  Tweeted:

Something really needs to be done about Nepal’s blood banks. Seeing increasing numbers of social media shout-outs for emergency donations.

I’m not sharing the name of the videshi. It’s not about that person. They imply that something is wrong when the opposite is true. They don’t know any better. But I realized that something amazing is actually happening in Nepal which, to my mind, shows the kind of love and community that is possible in Nepal.

The best of Nepal.

First Nepali-language video:


Here is an English-language video from The Netherlands that describes what happens when you donate. How the blood is processed, etc

Here is the amazing part

There now is a network in Nepal named Youth for Blood and they use social media to publicize the need for blood and it seems to be nationwide.  Click here for their website. http://youthforblood.org/

In Nepali-bhasa:

This only has 693 views as of today. I think we all need to publicize this organization and the work they do. Please share it as widely as you possibly can.

Oh and by the way here is some science

We need more donors but that is not the only problem. My first inclination when I read this was to focus on the AB blood type of the pregnant lady in the original tweet. We need to get donors with specific  blood types. Specifically, AB+ and AB-

If you google it you will find that scientific medical studies have been conducted. this is something Blood Banks do. Here is the summary of one study conducted by doctors at TU IOM:

This study was undertaken to find out the trend of blood group distribution (ABO and Rh) among the 1310 Nepalese attended in Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital and Nepal Medical College Teaching Hospital Kathmandu. The frequency of distribution of A, B, AB and O was 28.5%, 27.3%, 8.7% and 35.5% respectively. Only 0.8% of them were found to be Rh (-) ve. In this population of study, O (+) ve blood group was found to be predominant among the Brahmins, Magars and Gurungs. A (+) ve blood group was predominant among the Chhetris, and B (+) ve among the Sherpas and the Lamas. (source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17357642 )

Get your blood tested.

Here is a chart showing distribution of blood types in various countries:


How to read the graph above?

Very simple. If you are walking down the street in Kathmandu, one out of every three people you pass will have type A, and another one of three will have type O. Only one out of twenty will have type AB. To find a donor for that person you may have to test nineteen more people before you find the one person who matches. That’s why most of the public appeals are for type AB.

The above graph did not include China. I have read reports that in China, 95% of people are type O. To find a matching donor is relatively simple in China.

If you have AB+ or AB- blood, get registered with Youth For Blood Nepal.


The Sacrament of the Goddess

The Sacrament of the Goddess is the title of my novel that takes place in a hospital in Nepal. You can find out where to get a copy if you browse this very blog you are reading. Part of the plot involves blood transfusion – the way that blood is transfused (or not) in Nepal.  Like many nurses and doctors, not just in Nepal but from USA, I have seen the lifesaving effect of blood transfusion but also personally watched people die for lack of blood.  I hate the helpless feeling when  no blood is available. Frankly, I found myself getting teary-eyed to learn about Youth For Blood and their mission.

Fifteen out-of-the-ordinary gifts from Nepal Dec 21st 2016

are you the kind of traveler who hates the idea of a t-shirt that says “My parents visited Nepal and all I got was this lousy t-shirt?” or perhaps “Hard Rock Café Kathmandu”?

Got a singing bowl? how about a Thangka? a little golden figurine of Buddha? these are two items that seem to show up when everyone unpacks after their trip.


Here is a short break taking you to a Himalayan Trek in Solu Khumbu, which by the way, I have never visited myself.

“Tokens of Love”

I happen to have those items and more, not because I bought them, but because people have gifted them to me. At the end of each class session we invariably have a ceremony in which I am given a “token of love.” Now, at this point I own about a dozen small Buddhas.


The hospitality of Nepali people is legendary, and they are respectful of teachers due to Buddhist influence. So I get these “tokens of Love – after awhile they add up. I love this particular one – the class at GBCHH was memorable and fun.

I am  difficult to please in the Nepali scale of gift-giving. Actually, I’ve always been difficult to buy for – I don’t like clothes for example unless I pick them out myself. Frankly, I am the kind of person who enjoys books as a gift.

In the travel industry, people have made studies of the type of handicraft or souvenir that goes with different archetypes of travelers. For example, there is a specific sub-type of tourist who does in fact enjoy getting a Harley-Davidson logo item that might include the name of an “exotic” dealership – (“Harley-Davidson Waikiki” for example. Or a t-shirt from Super Bowl XVIII.  The Nepal equivalent would be a football shirt that says “Fly Emirates” I guess.

There is always a specific group of travelers who buy specific handicrafts. The handicrafts on display do not arrive there by accident.

First, India

When you take the Grand Tour of Rajasthan, the tourist people have it arranged so that when you hire a guide, the guide steers you to a specific shop that is making whichever handicraft is associated with that city or region. For example, in Aggra you are brought to a place where they do stone inlay work such as that found on the actual Taj Mahal.


you’ll see this inlaid work on items in Thamel, but it’s from India. It is truly beautiful.

In Jaisalmer you get a class on those bedspreads made of eclectic quilted materials.


In South Asia, the basic idea is, every handicraft is associated with a particular region or ethnic group. Here is an example of the kind of quilt they make in rural Rajasthan…..

In Jodhpur you get those moghul miniature paintings of the Kama Sutra. You get a class on the technique then an offer to buy items on a discount. When you get the backstory you end up learning how to appreciate the item you bought and you can practice what you will say when you show it to your friends back in USA.

Umm, those people with the Harley-Davidson logo? They are probably not visiting Nepal. Nepal has a high percentage of adventure tourists and vagabonds.

the top ten physical things people bring home?

  1. singing bowl
  2. thangka
  3. anything made with Pashmina.
  4. Buddha statues
  5. embroidered t-shirts (“Langtang trek”)
  6. diarrhea ( I suppose…)
  7. maybe a saree.
  8. a khukuri knife as made famous by the Gurkhas.
  9. little wooden picture frames carved in Newari style.
  10. prayer flags
  11. malla beads

as you see, these are ones I think of off the top of my head. I am not disputing the quality of pashmina or the singing bowls, I’m just saying these are what “everyone” gets.

Anyway, I tend to look for the less commercialized gift, or at least the one where the accompanying story needs to be as good as the item. Oh, and it needs to be inexpensive!

My turn to be “snooty”

I’m not better than others just because I like different stuff.


I try very hard to de-clutter my life in USA, but I do like to have unusual items. I usually return home with

  1. those green beaded necklaces, called “potey” that you can find in the Indra Chowk bead bazaar. to find the bead bajaar, use these directions: http://wp.me/p3b3md-5b
  2. more puja posters to add to my collection. these are devotional items you can get for about 25 cents apiece, and they are often striking pieces of visual art


    This is sample of a poster used for a home altar in Hinduism. Very colorful and intriguing. ah one illustrates some aspect of the Gods.

  3. various “paranda” – the hair tassels worn by many women, braided in as an extension ( see separate blog entry for this) http://wp.me/p1pDBL-Gz
  4. I have sometimes ordered “cholo” – those double-breasted blouses made of palpali dakka cloth worn by many of the locals. for that matter – anything made of Dakka! If you don’t know what Dakka is, is a sort of plaid. Usually hand-made on looms in Palpa district of west-central Nepal. Many patterns.


    bolts of Dhaka cloth on display in a shop in Tansen, Nepal. To understand decorative arts in South Asia you must learn about textiles! a trip to Tansen is not complete without seeing the Dhaka factory there.

  5. haku patasi – the black-and-red saree worn by Newari women. These are made of Nepali-grown cotton. ( see separate blog entry http://wp.me/p3b3md-iW )
  6. there are a few shops that specialize in Hindu or Buddhist puja supplies esp those used by young girls at the time of  “Bel Wedding” or for kids having their rice-feeding ceremony.


    This shop is located on the road from Ason Tole to Ratna park in Old Kathmandu. It specializes in Hindu religious items. If you are looking for an off-the-beaten path gift that will have a story to go with it, this is the place.

  7. In these places, each  item is a sort of cheap imitation version of adult jewelry. There is a beautiful traditional hair clip known as a “chandrama” and at some of the puja shops  you can get a fake one ( i.e., not solid gold) for 300 rupees. (in the picture at the top, the lady is wearing a chandrama in her hair). img_20160811_124436_hdr
  8. I bought a momo maker for a friend – about 800 rupees. I am partial to those teapots made of aluminum, and I plan to get one for myself next time. It brings back happy memories.


    used to make momo. widely available.

  9. those saffron and orange cotton shawls used by the shiva devotees.
  10. I have bought several thangkas while there, but for these I choose the subject carefully to make sure the story is aligned with something in my life. for example, I have one depicting vajarayogini, because she is the patron deity of the heroine for my novel. I have one showing the Wheel of Life. And the biggest one, four foot by six foot, once hung in the lobby of a hotel and shows the mandala made up of all the significant religious locations of Nepal.
  11. I got some costume jewelry in the “Kandan” style for some friends. This is actually not Nepali but was popularized by Bollywood actress Aishwarya Rai in a movie and it’s a big hit. You can get these at Indra Chowk on the street that goes toward Basantapur.


    okay, so it’s based on a Rajasthani design, not Nepali. But -it’s fun.

  12. at Boudha they play “Om Mane Padme Hum” on a continuous loop, pounding it into your brain. The CD is available for 500 rupees. https://youtu.be/gx1SrxDwxXo
  13. I was given a “madhubani” style painting while in Janakpur. This is a particular style associated with the Maithili ethnic group. It’s distinctive and wonderful. said to have inspired Picasso!


    Madhubani painting on silk. This one depicts a wedding

  14. I own a conch shell, they kind used by sadhus or in front of funeral processions.
  15. in Terai there is a particular kind of shawl the men wear, hand-embroidered cotton.


    you wouldn’t even notice this unless you already knew what it was. For many Hindu etivals, the kids act out the legend of one God or another. This crown would be worn by somebody impersonating Krshna. It cost $3 US.

  16. diarrhea (not limited to the unsophisticated traveler; discriminating travelers also acquire it, and just like with a tangible object, the story to accompany is often entertaining).

    closeup of one of the manikins outside the Lagankhel shop. The “real” jewelry would be solid gold and $$$. this is an inexpensive alternative….

    As you can see, I gravitate to the offbeat. because I am given many “tokens of love” at the end of any given teaching session, I try to make sure people are told not to give me any item that contains glass or that can’t be crushed when it is shipped back to USA. That’s why textile items are so handy – they don’t break when you drop them!

    Most of the above items can be found in “Old Kathmandu” – the neighborhood of Ason Tole or Indra Chowk south of Thamel but north of Kathmandu Durbar Square.

    and of course a copy of the Nepal edition of my novel. Here is the back cover:


    The back cover of the USA edition was a short synopsis. By the time we printed the Nepal edition, there were some reviews to quote and they were more colorful. In a bookstore, people make decisions to buy based on the first page and back cover, or so they say.

    I will edit this in future, hopefully to add pictures and also locations of some of these things ( I already posted blog entries about the Bead bajaar and where to get Haku Patasi).

    If you got this far, please feel free to add suggestions as to what exotic items you would bring back…… there are so many!