A week back, the new hall of Kathmandu’s Mandala Theatre witnessed something different from its regular theatrical shows. It was definitely a performing art but also something that usually does not take place in theatres.
The duo of poet Sudip Bhattarai, popularly known as Nadeesh, and musician Rhythm Kandel carried out a musical poetry recitation session.
Nadeesh and Kandel were seated under the yellowish light. As Kandel softly strummed a chord in his wooden-colour acoustic guitar, Nadeesh began reciting the first poem of the show, entitled ‘Nisto Chiya’.
The event was unusual for the theatre, but poetry recitation is gradually taking momentum in Kathmandu and other cities of Nepal of late. Whereas traditional means of poetry–mainly printed anthologies–only communicate ‘what’ of poetry, poets and poem reciters say recitation events mean more as they gather art enthusiasts and allow both writers and readers to interact.
Strongest medium of expression
Almost a decade ago, when poet Ujjwala Maharjan started doing live poetry shows, there were not many platforms for it. Maharjan, in her own initiative and some like-minded people, has done poetry recitation and workshops outside Kathmandu as well, in places such as Pokhara and Dhangadhi.
But, today, the situation has changed. Maharjan who is active in popularising recitation events in Nepal says such events have their own charm.
“Poetry recitation is one of the strongest mediums for educating and making people aware and storytelling,” says Maharjan, “One can express their bottled-up feelings and stories comprehensively through it.”
She believes the easy access to digital platforms is also helping the culture of poetry recitation in Nepal to grow.
Among various platforms that feature poetry recited, Unspoken Poetry on YouTube has been garnering noteworthy recognition lately. The channel came into operation a year ago and now it has over 200,000 views, a decent number for a non-pop-culture art channel from Nepal.
“The quality content, sound and videos are the reasons that are drawing a wide attention of people in poetry recitation,” says Roshan Shrestha, the founder at Unspoken Poetry.
As informed by Shrestha, mainly the youth are interested in reciting poems through his YouTube Channel.
Poetry recitation: Meditation plus music
Recent poetry recitation events in Kathmandu do not only include recitation; there happens music too. As poets recite their work, musicians play ragas on their guitar, keyboard and other instruments.
Musician Rhythm Kandel, who frequently plays for poetry these days, takes recitation as a new approach to connect the words and music.
“Poetry recitation is an art that makes the word and poem more beautiful and feelable,” says Kandel.
According to him, most of the attendees of live poetry events are literature enthusiasts and intellectuals. He has seen everyone from a school kid to elderly citizens attending the shows.
To play music for poetry is something different from what he has been doing regularly. However, it has been very productive for him.
“Playing music in poetry shows has enhanced my musical sense and ability to understand words and lyrics,” says Kandel.
While being asked about the role of music in poetry recitation, he says, “I have heard from a lot of the audience that music adds a life to poetry. I totally agree with them”.