John Tyman's
Cultures in Context Series

Contents with Descriptions and Video Links

Politics and Environment

1. King and  political crisis
Evening English language news for March 12th in 1996 (2053 according to the Nepalese calendar) on Radio Nepal reporting on the roles of the King and the latest political crisis: also on the return of Gurkha peace-keepers from Lebanon. Background noise of family conversation in Ramja Thanti. (5:35)

2. News on Day 2 of crisis
English language news a day later reporting on the continuing disruption to parliament. (3:55)

3. News on Day 3
Illustrating the in-fighting between parties, including the Communists. (2:10)

4. The King and diplomacy.
From the news on 16/3/96. Recorded on the verandah at Ramja Thanti. (3:47)

5. Weather bulletin for mountaineers
For 14/3/96-- that is for a day in spring -- forecasting wind direction and velocity and air temperature at selected elevations. (1:01)

6. Mountain Stream
Nourished by melting snows in spring. (0:50)

7. Driving on mountain roads [See Video Extract 24]
Sounds recorded on an over-crowded bus negotiating a winding road (with a precipitous drop to one side) down the range from Pokhara, when overtaking was suicidal, while the driver fiddled with his radio. (2:38)

8. Bird calls in nesting season
Sound of quail-like birds in the Midlands. (0:49)

9. Birds life on the Terai
A collage of calls recorded one morning in the Two Thousand Lakes National Park (with some interference from wind). (5:36)

10. Elephant rides  [See Video Extract 33]
Sound of tourists being loaded on to the backs of elephants in Royal Chitwan National Park, for a tiger and rhino safari. (2:21)

Family Life in a Village

11. Women’s work at break of day
Sounds of early morning household chores. While her sister-in-law went for water, Bhagabati swept out the kitchen, working by candle-light, and laid the fire. Some of the water was mixed with red soil to make a slurry which was used to coat the floor of the kitchen and the entranceway. Water was also poured for tea. (4:48)

12. Washing clothes at spring  [See Video Extract 10]
Bhagabati does the laundry at a spring in Ramja Thanti. (0:57)

13. Nearby ducks
Sound of the ducks herded nearby, watched over by children. (1:20)

14. Churning butter
Paras’ father churns milk into butter (for 15 minutes) in the kitchen prior to its clarification to produce ghee.  (2:52)

15. Grinding millet
Sounds of young girl grinding millet outside her back door, using a quern which she rotates by hand. (1:41)

16. Flour mill
Sound of rice being polished at a small mill near Ramja Thanti. It also grinds wheat and millet. (1.34)

17. At home of an evening
Typical evening at Paras’ home in Ramja Thanti, when friends call round to talk and/or listen to the radio -- with its news of the latest political crisis, music and commercials. (3:23)

18. Family discussion
Paras, his wife and his parents converse in the evening on their verandah, with their radio in the background. (2:36)

19. Light-hearted exchange
Paras, his family and friends enjoy each other’s company at the end of  long day. (1:37) 

20. Radio and community
People gather at the homes of those lucky enough to own a radio that works -- to talk, listen to music, and respond to the latest news from Kathmandu (in this case of the King). (2:24)

21. Children and radio
Children listen to the commercial jingles, folk and pop, and clap in time in time to the music (more or less!)  (3:30)

22. Cleaning pots and pans [See Video Extract 10]
The daughters-in-law scour cooking pots clean with ash from the fire. (1:09)

23. Cooking curry
Preparing the vegetables, tending the fire, and cooking the evening meal. (1:49)

24. Pigeons needing training
Instead of waking the household as they were supposed to do these pigeons were rudely awakened by the children so I could record them!  (0:55)

25. Game of Dandibiawo  [See Video Extract 13]
The volume fluctuates as the player moves around using one stick to keep the other spinning freely. (1:22)

26. House construction [See Video Extract 06]
Mixing clay mortar and using it to bed stones in position with hammer in Brahman village. (1:55)

27. Pit-sawing  [See Video Extract 19]
Pit sawing of tree trunk into planks in a Tharu village. (1:38)

Farm Work

28. Ploughing and harrowing [See Video Extract 02]
A neighbour using oxen to plough and then harrow, moving up and down his field. The women walk behind with long-handled mallets breaking up any lumps that remain. The oxen are then fed and watered while another man continues to plough nearby. (2:05)

29. Milking buffalo
Paras’ father milks his buffalo at first light. (2:34)

30. Threshing mustard [See Video Extract 04]
In our farmyard at Ramja Thanti: underfoot (by two sets of feet) and two people with flails. (1:46)

31. Planting corn  [See Video Extract 02]
Oxen pull plough up and down the field. One woman walking behind the plough drops seed into the furrow. Another with a long-handled mallet breaks up clods and and helps cover the seed. (0:57)

32. Grazing goats  [See Video Extract 05]
Children take goats to graze after school. (0:55)

33. Winnowing mustard  [See Video Extract 04]
In our yard at Ramja Thanti, with flat-bottomed baskets but no wind. (2:27)

34. Threshing wheat  [See Video Extract 04]
With two flails, in the same yard. (2:43)

35. Harvesting dhal  [See Video Extract 17]
Farm labourers harvesting dhal on the  Terai, pulling the plant out by the roots, and talking as they advance in line across the field.

36. Transplantation of rice seedlings  [See Video Extract 18]
Women transplanting rice seedlings across a flooded field on the Terai (with sound of farm machinery in background). (2:40)

37. Harrowing of flooded field  [See Video Extract 18]
Wooden harrow pulled by oxen smoothing the surface of a flooded field prior to the transplantation of rice seedlings-- which women can be heard doing in the background. (1:57)

38. Water released into rice field  [See Video Extract 18]
Sound of water flowing in main channel being released into a side channel by the removal of an earth barrier, allowing it to drop to a lower level and flood a rice field. (0:45)

39. Winnowing of dhal  [See Video Extract 19]
In a light wind, in a Tharu villge. (1:32)

Family Life in Town

40. Rush hour traffic  [See Video Extract 20]
Sound of rush hour traffic in the centre of Bharatpur. (2:37)

41. Soundscape of family life  [See Video Extract 20]
Collage representative of family life in town of a late afternoon in Bharatpur -- in one and a half rooms, and only a few metres from the highway. While their mother prepares their evening meal in the space under the stairs, with their radio in the background, the children play in the corridor, their father arrives home, and traffic roars past on the highway. (5:44)

42. Children doing their homework  [See Video Extract 20]
Bibek (age 10) and Binita (age 6) do their homework, reading aloud from their school books (and committing the text to memory?) . Bibek’s concerns government and Binita’s the nation’s flag. (1:37)

43. Children play outside
Children play after school in the backyard of our house, only metres from the highway between Kathmandu and India. (1:52)

44. Game of carom  [See Video Extract 20]
Young men play carom (flicking flat counters across a board which has corner pockets) at a local snack bar. (0:58)

45. Washing clothes at backyard pump
Bhagabati does her laundry beside the (rather inefficient) pump in her backyard.  (1:51)

46. Pumping Water  [See Video Extract 20]
Bhagabati pumps water for the house using the same pump in her backyard after it had been repaired. ( 0:31)

47. Kerosene stove
Bhagabati positions the stove, lights it, pumps it for pressure, produces a  suitable level of heat, and cooks upon it. (2:20)

48. Pressure Cooker
Bhagabati prepares the evening meal using a kerosene stove and a pressure-cooker (which releases steam from time to time). (2:11)

49. Women’s Sewing Class  [See Video Extracts 20 and 33]
At the Chitwan Women’s Self-Help Group women from different castes (notably Brahman) meet to learn how to sew clothes for their families. On their arrival some women finish work on their projects: others chat till the teacher begins the lesson. (2:27)

50. Closing security screens
These ones, at the home of Bhagabati’s sister in Kathmandu, covered windows as well as the doors.  (0:42)

Trades and Industries

51. Cloth merchant
Paras negotiating the purchase of cloth in Ramja Thanti for the tailor to make into clothes for my teaching collection. (2:27)

52. Village tailor  [See Video Extract 09]
This man had a workshop in the village and a treadle machine also. (2:24)

53. Blacksmith’s Workshop  [See Video Extract 09]
Edited extracts illustrating different stages in the finishing of a steel blade. It is softened by heating in a “blast furnace” (with a mechanical blower providing the blast of air). It is then worked with a hammer and a file, reheated and hardened by quenching with cold water; and reworked ... several times.(2:24)

54. Blacksmith’s son
His son finishes off a sickle, using a hammer, a file and mechanical bellows to heat the steel. Saturday is his day off from school. (3:27)

55. Carpenter [See Video Extract 09]
Using an adze to shape a wooden plough-share. (0:58)

56. Textile mill  [See Video Extract 25]
Mill in Bharatpur turning cotton yarn into towels and face cloths. (1:04)

57. Sawmill  [See Video Extract 25]
Also in Bharatpur. Processing hardwoods. (1:36)

58. Potter  [See Video Extract 25]
He dumps a lump of clay at the centre of a large wheel (formed from a truck’s tyre) and rotates it with a broom handle to set it spinning rapidly as he worked the clay into pots. (0:59)


59. Mathematics lesson  [See Video Extract 11]
Maths lesson (algebra) underway at the school in Ramja Thanti. In the background sounds of the class next door. (2:26)

60. Language class
Instruction at Ramja Thanti, in which throughout the lesson children learned by recitation and memorization. (2:14)

61. Interview with headmaster
Extract from interview with the head teacher at Ramja Thanti, in which he details the programs offered. (1:30)

62. School choir [See Video Extract 12]
Extracts from 3 songs which accompanied dances at a special assembly. In the first, traditional boy meets traditional girl. In the second he says: “Why tell me you are a traditional girl when you dress the way you do?” The third is a tongue-in-cheek thanksgiving for “development” and is hammed up by a now adult former student. (6:28)

63. Distribution of boiled sweets
After the assembly and the concert, teachers distributed to 600 students the sweets I had provided -- most from Australia but some bought locally to ensure there was enough to go round. (1:32)

64. Game of “Cat and Mouse” [See Video Extract 13]
Recreational period in the yard of a small primary school distant from Ramja Thanti. Some interference from wind.  (1:44)

65. Game of “Kapardi” [See Video Extract 13]
A form of tag in which students, allowed a single breath and chanting a warning sound, invaded the territory of the opposition till they had no air left in their lungs. Interference from wind and carpenter working in background. (2:11)

66. Grade 3 class song
Grade 3 students at a small primary school sing their class song. (1:23)

67. In-service teacher training  [See Video Extract 21]
Training day at Bharatpur for secondary level English language teachers. (1:58)

68. Student prepares for exam
Bibek (aged 10), with help from his father Paras, rehearses some of the answers for tomorrow’s three-hour-long Social Studies test. (3:04)

69. Secondary Social Studies  [See Video Extract 21]
Paras’ brother Bhim teaching a lesson on Albert Schweitzer at a private English language school near Bharatpur. (1:29)

Forms of Music and Dance

70. Wedding Music :  1 [See Video Extract 7]
Continuous sequence of pieces from a dance cycle that lasted most of the day: illustrating the shortness of the intervals between dances and the corresponding demands placed on performers. With drums and horns --long and short. (4:58)

71. Wedding Music :  2
Another sequence that morning; illustrating variations in instrumentation and rhythm. (2:28)

72. Wedding Music :  3
Sequence illustrating the importance of the vocal component in what appears to be a cycle of songs/dances prescribed for such an occasion. (2:04)

73. Wedding Music :  4
Faster piece, introduced by a dancer who has performed most of the day and is clearly short of breath. (0:57)

74. Wedding Music :  5
Late in the day, when the dancers make one last effort and are cheered accordingly. (0:56)

75. Folk music broadcast
Collage of 3 folk songs broadcast by Radio Nepal on 19/3/96.  The third song serves as the station’s theme tune and ends with a time signal. Programs are sometimes received clearly at Ramja Thanti, sometimes with a degree of distortion. (6:52)

76. Second folk music collage
A second bracket of three traditional Himalayan songs. (7:56)

77. Pop music : 1
Romantic piece (male solo) broadcast on 14/496.  (2:35)

78. Pop music: 2
Radio disc jockey introduces a piece that clearly bridges cultures and musical traditions. (3:19)

79. Rock music requests
The conclusion of a pop music requests program on Radio Nepal -- “When love and hate collide”. (5:16)

80. Nepalese “Rock” star
Extracts from “Kiss Me” by AASHA, a singer who rose to fame in the 1990s. (3:49)

Religion and Ritual

81. Priest lifting a curse
Brahman priest lifting the curse believed to have been laid by a local soothsayer on the store of a man in Ramja Thanti. (4:23)

82. Wedding : 1 [See Video Extract 7]
Crowd sounds at close of gift-giving and start of wedding ceremony (including my friend’s answer to my question why the bride was less  than radiant). (2:20)

83. Wedding : 2
Sanskrit chanting of Brahman priest early in the ceremony, notwithstanding the noise of people shouting close by and dancing in the distance. (3:40)

84. Wedding : 3  [See Video Extract 8]
Sanskrit chanting somewhat later in the ceremony at the time gifts were made to the groom, and his present to his bride (a luggage case full of clothes and jewelry) was handed over with due ceremony.  (5:47)

85. Wedding : 4
After the ceremony the procession (approaching and passing my tape recorder) climbs the hill behind the house of the bride -- who (from her tears) is clearly distressed at having to leave her own village and move to that of a man she hardly knows (her parents having arranged the marriage).

86. Naming ceremony of baby :1
Sanskrit chanting of Brahman priest preparing offerings for the naming of a new-born baby; with the sound of a radio in background and that of the child’s family preparing a celebratory meal. (3:18)

87. Naming ceremony of baby : 2
Priest chants during the actual ceremony, just prior to the baby’s exit from the house and while he consults his star chart to determine an appropriate first name -- accompanied by the crackling of a small ceremonial fire and the burning of incense.  (5:27)

88. Wayside shrine
Paras rings the bells at a wayside shrine. (0:55)

89. Chant of widows at Devghat  [See Video Extract 28]
Brief extract from chant of elderly widows (and priest) at a temple in Devghat -- in praise of the god Ram. (3:40)

90. Hindu temple bell
Priest rings the bell at this temple. (1:02)

91. Chant in praise of Krishna
Chant (with rattle and small cymbals) at a different temple in Devghat. (2:40)

92. Priests in training [See Video Extract 28]
Brahman boys, training to be priests, read and chant in Sanskrit the texts of Hindu holy books at Devghat. Briefest of extracts! (2:39)

93. Kasara and Bikram Baba  [See Video Extract 30]
Sound of pilgrims/devotees processing around the shrine at the tree where the image of Bikram Baba was unearthed. (2:38)

94. Countering evil spirits
Soothsayer-cum-shaman sounds his horn and chants outside our house in Bharatpur under cover of darkness to free its occupants (for a small fee) from the power of evil spirits on the eve of Little Dasain. Sound of highway in background. (2:35)

95. Worship at Kalika Mandir  [See Video Clip 29]
A constant stream of devotees climbs the hill to worship at the temple. When they leave they ring the bell. Also sounds of chicken sacrificed and music broadcast over loud speakers. (3:42)

96. Prayer wheels [See Video Extract 32]
Prayer wheels being spun by pilgrims alongside the stupa at Swayambhunath. (0:54)

97. Buddhist temple bell
Sound of bell at Swayambhunath. (0:32)

98. Devotees at Swayambhunath  [See Video Extract 32]
Sound of crowd lined up inside the temple precinct. (2:51)

99. Cremation at Pashupatinath [See Video Extract 31]
Distant hum of pilgrims and tourists visiting Pashupatinath, of families preparing bodies for cremation, and of  mourners grieving. A widow and her daughters mourn the loss of a husband and father, as his body is moved to the funeral pyre. (3:30)

100. Personal devotions : 1 [See Video Extract 15]
An elderly Brahman gentleman fulfills his morning devotions squatting on the path in front of our house in Ramja Thanti. Brief extract only. (3:21)

101. Personal devotions : 2
Bhagabati worships at the shrine in her little kitchen under the stairs in our house in Bharatpur. (2:37)

102. Personal Devotions : 3
End of prayer offered by Bhagabati’s brother-in-law in the room reserved for daily puja at their house in Kathmandu (before he leaves for work in the morning) with his wife in the background waiting her turn. (2:28)

103: Personal Devotions : 4  [See Video Extract 27]
His wife re-arranges the sacred objects in their private shrine which she then uses in offering daily puja. Extract only. (3:38)