Dohori Duets in Kathmandu

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In Nepal, we’re dancing and singing till the little hours of the night.

Pop battle? Sure. Flirtatious improv pop battle with drinks and dancing? Now we're talking. Dohori, which means back and forth, is a celebrated tradition in Nepal that's branching out into the clubs and bars of Kathmandu--especially in the entertainment district of the city, Thamel.

This folk-style of duet singing has become a popular source of live music among the After Hours Athletes of Nepal. There was a time when Dohori was only part of cultural festivals, with roots in courtship traditions. But in recent years it has become a regular fixture of Nepali nightlife, and you don't have to be a trained singer to join in.

We love it because it mixes karaoke, rap battles, and duet singing. Teams generally sing/compete boys vs. girls, so expect plenty of humor and even a few words of love.

On a recent evening we decided to give it a shot. Walking through the winding alleys of Thamel, we chose a Dohori bar with an array of brilliant lights at the entrance. Hosts dressed in traditional attire ushered us in, and instead of the ear-shattering music of the nearby clubs, we walked into a chill pub ambience.

The Dohori battle was already in full swing. On an elevated stage decorated like a rural hut, a male singer pitched a teasing question. The female lead singer tossed back a suggestive response, which elicited claps and whistles from the audience. The band chimed in with a chorus of flirtatious couplets.

After a few drinks we joined the audience members in retorting back and forth. (Not to mention the swaying and shimmying style of dance that matches Dohori perfectly.) This went on all night. Depending on the mood, and the occasion, the songs are sometimes improvised on the spot. It was wit and spontaneity in high gear.

We were pretty mesmerized by our first foray into Dohori singing, and we think it’s here to stay—in Katmandu there are over 60 Dohori clubs.

Photos courtesy of Rajneesh Bhandari
 

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