SOAS University of London

SOAS Festival of Ideas

Musical Heritage of Kathmandu Valley - Film Screening and Panel Discussion


Date: 23 October 2020Time: 1:00 PM

Finishes: 23 October 2020Time: 3:00 PM

Venue: Virtual Event

Type of Event: Virtual Event

Book now

Musical Heritage of the Kathmandu Valley

The Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, is renowned for its rich artistic and architectural heritage, produced over a period of two millennia under the patronage of local rulers and religious institutions. This visual and built heritage is renowned throughout the world, and celebrated in international museums, art galleries and scholarly publications. Music and dance were also part of this rich culture, and are frequently portrayed in paintings, sculptures and other representations from the 13th – 19th centuries, but are largely ignored by cultural historians. This musical heritage survives tenuously to the present day, but is increasingly threatened by natural disasters (the 2015 earthquake, the 2020 pandemic) and ongoing, pervasive socio-economic changes.

This presentation will introduce the rich and varied religious and ritual musical heritage of the ancient royal city of Bhaktapur, as it survives today. It draws on Richard Widdess’s research over three decades, and features a short film made in collaboration with Chouette Films (SOAS). The film focuses on two genres of religious music: Hindu-Buddhist temple singing, and processional music for the Buddhist festival of Panchadān. Extracts from performances in the streets and squares of the city are juxtaposed with reflections on the meaning, importance and future of the tradition, in the words of performers from younger and older generations.

The presentation will end with an experimental 360-degree Virtual Reality film of a temple-singing group, showing how this format allows a viewer-controlled exploration of both the performance and its context.

  • Introduced by Shashi Amatya, Matina Foundation, London
  • Richard Widdess, Professorial Research Associate, School of Arts, SOAS
  • Film by Anna and Remi Sowa, Chouette Films (SOAS)
Anna Sowe

Anna Sowa is a documentary film producer and PhD by practice candidate at the London Film School/ University of Exeter, researching the role of the producer in collaborative documentary filmmaking. Building on her profound understanding of the barriers to delivering films for social change and her first-hand experience researching and working in international development, Anna launched a filmmaking social enterprise with a social documentarian- Remi Sowa. Chouette Films - is a green film production company on a mission to produce films for social change with the smallest possible environmental footprint. Based at SOAS, University of London, Chouette Films fuses the worlds of academia and creativity. By harnessing the powerful and expressive language of film, Chouette Films draws stories from the world of academia and extends the reach of their impact to wider audiences. The vision of the enterprise is to amplify the voices of research projects and social ventures, so that their unique and important stories are heard rather than being lost to gather dust on library shelves. Chouette Films is recognised for their contribution to social change and prowess in using film to advance research, commended by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (Best Film by Research award 2015), the Al Jazeera International Documentary Film Festival, the IBC Social Impact Award for Ethical Leadership in Filmmaking amongst many others. Anna also works as a Creative Producer for Screen World.

Richard Widdess

Richard Widdess is Professor of Musicology (retired) and Professorial Research Associate, Department of Music, School of Arts, SOAS. He has spsnt many years researching, analysing and teaching the music and musical history of India and Nepal. He is author of three books (The rāgas of early Indian music (1995); Dhrupad: tradition and performance in Indian music (2004, with Ritwik Sanyal); and Dāphā: Sacred singing in a South Asian city. Music, performance and meaning in Bhaktapur, Nepal (2013)). He is also interested in music cognition and in endangered song traditions. This event draws on his research into Newar music of the Kathmandu Valley, and presents an ongoing collaboration with Chouette Films.


Click here to register

This event is part of the Virtual SOAS Festival of Ideas which will kick off a week-long series of virtual events. The festival includes: panel discussions, student led installations, masterclasses, keynote lectures, a public debate for/against on Decolonising Knowledge and a Verbatim performance by Bhuchar Boulevard on ‘Decolonising Not Just a Buzzword’ capturing SOAS conversations about the need to decolonise its imperial mission.

Keep updated on the upcoming Virtual Festival of Ideas events and watch recordings of previous events on the SOAS website. Please contact with any questions regarding this event and/or the Virtual SOAS Festival of Ideas.

Please support SOAS Festival of Ideas by donating to our crowdfunding campaign at All proceeds go to supporting the speakers, performers, and artists involved.

Organiser: SOAS Festival of Ideas

Contact email: