Men march to the beat of their own drum

By Caroline Anderson

KATHMANDU, Nepal–One, one, one, two, two, one.

At a recent music workshop in Nepal, drummers from the Limbu people group practice their dance steps in preparation to record new praise and worship songs with other Limbu singers. Photo © 2014 IMB/ M. B. Harris*

At a recent music workshop in Nepal, drummers from the Limbu people group practice their dance steps in preparation to record new praise and worship songs with other Limbu singers. Photo © 2014 IMB/ M. B. Harris*

Nepalese across the nation recognize the beat. It’s part of the fabric and soul of Nepal and captures the rhythm of the Limbu people group.

Limbu believers proudly explain that this rhythm from their tall, cylindrical drum echoes and carries across the Himalayas.

Their drum is called a Ke and it’s used in festivals, house dedications and weddings. The drum rhythm is always accompanied by a special dance, called the Ke Lang dance that Limbu men perform while drumming.

Deepak Nepali* says when he hears the Limbu drums he knows he’s in Nepal. Deepak is involved in music ministry in Nepal and was one of the facilitators of a music workshop that the Limbu recently attended.

The workshop encouraged the Limbu and other people groups to use their traditional instruments and their native languages to write worship songs to use in their churches and for outreach.

Believers were told to pray and sing in their heart languages. Many had never done this before and had only prayed in Nepali.

Bikram Yekten remembers the first evening of the workshop when many of the believers present prayed and sang to God in their native language for the first time.

“Tears were falling,” Yekten recalls. “God gave us a language, God said every tongue and nation should worship and praise Him.”

Yekten is a pastor from the Limbu people group. Many years ago, there were 10 Limbu kings in eastern Nepal. One of Yekten’s ancestors was a king.

Limbu drummer practicing his large traditional Ke drum before a video production recording.  These drums are famous throughout Nepal for their big booming sound. Drummers insist they must move in rhythmic steps to help keep the tempo.  These drums are equipped with a thumper stick and small bell which adds the effects of two more instruments to the Ke drum sound.

Limbu drummer practicing his large traditional Ke drum before a video production recording. These drums are famous throughout Nepal for their big booming sound. Drummers insist they must move in rhythmic steps to help keep the tempo. These drums are equipped with a thumper stick and small bell which adds the effects of two more instruments to the Ke drum sound.

“Since I am Limbu, I should praise God in my own dialect, in my own melody. There is a difference in praising in our own language and other languages,” Yekten says.

The Limbu who attended the music workshop incorporated the Ke and the Ke Lang dance into worship songs they wrote and recorded — something that has never been done before.

“We must see the drummer,” Limbu singers told one of the workshop’s facilitators during a recording session.

The drummer struggled a little, wanting to dance while playing, but he needed to stay still for recording purposes.

When Yekten put earphones on and heard the Limbu language being sung, he couldn’t keep his tears from escaping.

“Now, we have the liberty and chance to praise God now in our own language,” Yekten said.

Keeping traditions alive

Two younger Limbu men were a part of the Limbu team at the workshop. Though they are modern and cosmopolitan – sporting carefully moussed hair, blue jeans and button-down shirts, they know their people group’s traditional dance.

Deepak says younger believers like these men will help keep the Limbu traditions alive.

Music is an integral part of Limbu society. Music plays a role in romance, relaxation, religious festivities, weddings, house dedication and harvesting crops.

Just outside a make-shift recording studio, Limbu drum musicians tune their large Ke drums in preparation to record new songs of praise and worship with other Limbu musicians.

Just outside a make-shift recording studio, Limbu drum musicians tune their large Ke drums in preparation to record new songs of praise and worship with other Limbu musicians.

Ram Prasad Kadel, author of “Musical Instruments of Nepal,” writes that Limbu men are known for their musicality. He writes that it is how males express emotions and feelings.

Limbu men tease women with a mini iron flute, called a Penje. Men court women with an instrument made out of a leaf, known as a Tetlaa Phekwaa. Men take breaks from work and play a bamboo reed, known as a Kom Mikala.

The workshop emphasized the importance of keeping these instruments in use.

In addition to keeping traditions and instruments alive, a goal for the music workshop was for people groups to use the newly written songs as a ministry tool.

“I hope God puts in your heart a prayer that every language, every tribe will be able to sing and preach the praise of God,” Deepak told believers during the closing session.

“If we have the responsibility to tell people about Jesus in their heart languages, don’t we also have the responsibility to share worship music in their language?” Deepak asked.

The Limbu believers at the workshop took seriously the responsibility to share their worship music.

In the months following the workshop, Yekten reported that six Limbu became believers after listening to the worship songs.

Now, their famous drums and dance are being used to reach the Limbu with the Gospel.

-30-

*In Nepal, individuals’ last names are often the name of their people group.

Caroline Anderson writes for the IMB from Asia.

 

CONNECT

Pray.

—Explore ways to pray for South Asia at southasianpeoples.imb.org and keep up with God’s work in South Asia with the free South Asian Peoples App (Apple and Android devices). Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Give.

—Explore ways to give to missionaries, human needs, strategic projects and special gifts at the Give section of the IMB Web site.

—Give to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

—Fund Strategic Opportunities in South Asia.

Go.

Face2Face — a program that mobilizes students to serve overseas with a team for eight to ten weeks. To learn more, visit the Face2Face Web site.

Hands On — a program that mobilizes students ages 18 to 29 to serve overseas for four months to one year while receiving college credit. To learn more, visit the Hands On Web site.

Journeyman — a program that mobilizes young adults ages 21 to 26 to serve overseas for two to three years. To learn more, visit the Journeyman Web site.

Volunteers to career — Visit going.imb.org.

Lead.

Volunteer Church — church commits to participate in a volunteer trip which could lead to a greater commitment as the Lord leads. To learn more, visit Lead your Church at imb.org.

Strategic Partner Church — church commits to engage a population segment and function as the missionary to that group as part of a field team’s strategy. To learn more, visit How to Connect on www.imb.org.

Embracing Church — church commits to embrace an unreached, unengaged people group and function as the catalyst for the work and focus on that people group. To learn more, visit the Embrace Web site.