Music and Dances of Central Nepal

Subi Shah’s Works on Pangdure (Maruni) Performance

A translation and video project

Subi Shah (1922-2008) spent his life performing and teaching Nepali folk song, instrumental music, dance, and drama. He specialized in dance-dramas like Sorathi (below) and Charitra. His books give a holistic account of how the arts of song, music, dance, and drama are interlinked in these traditions.

The Art of Dance

In this introductory work on dance, Shah’s article outlines the dances and dance-dramas performed by the Pangdure (Maruni) troupes and others in the central Nepali hills.

Musical examples feature song lyrics with notated Madal drum accompaniment, as the tal or rhythmic cycles and their patterns played on the Madal both dictate the dance steps and give their names to the genres.

Glimpses of Nepali Folk Songs

In this book we learn about more kinds of folk songs, their genre classifications according to tal, their poetic meters, their rhythmic characteristics, their melodies, and their role in social life in Shah’s village of Jyamrung and the surrounding areas.

Over 100 notated musical examples include lyrics, melody, and tal, with notes on performance practice including dance.


This book provides the mythological and recent history of the Madal drum, tells how it is made and used in central Nepal, and gives information about playing for Pangdure (Maruni) and related dances, songs, and dramas. This information is unprecedented in its detail, and found nowhere else in the literature on Nepali folk performance.

Introduction to Nepali Tunes

This unpublished manuscript introduces a theory of melodic modes based on the bamboo flute and shahnai, and followed in the central Nepali hills. Notated examples of unmetered and metered tunes are included for each mode, and their general uses and associations are described.

Nepali Dance-Dramas

In this unpublished manuscript, Shah goes into great detail about dance steps. Using a dance notation of his own creation, he shows how the steps of different dances relate to tal, song form, and story.


This is Shah’s transcription of the entire oral text of the Sorati dance-drama as he knows it, prefaced by an analytical essay. While other transcriptions of Sorati exist, this one exemplifies its performance in Shah’s regional tradition.

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Support for our project

We are delighted to be one of the recipients of a 2021 Scholarly Editions and Translations Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities! This grant provides three years of support for our team to translate Subi Shah’s works, make audio and video recordings of the music and dances he describes, and prepare them allContinue reading “Support for our project”

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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