Kathmandu’s International Jazz Festival: A Harmonious Celebration

by Madonna

In the midst of Nepal’s festive season, which sees celebrations like Dasain, Tihar, and Chhat, music enthusiasts have yet another reason to rejoice: the 19th edition of the Surya Nepal Jazzmandu, an international jazz festival that has firmly placed Nepal on the global jazz map.

With a fresh ensemble of musicians from around the world, this year’s Jazzmandu promises to be the perfect antidote for the post-Dasain blues and a soul-warming precursor to the upcoming festival of lights.


According to Samir Chettri of the Nepali jazz band Cadenza Collective, a member of the festival’s organizing team, Jazzmandu was born out of a deep love for jazz. The aim was simple: to make the world of jazz accessible to Nepalis who might not have the opportunity to attend international concerts. This year’s artist lineup offers a glimpse of the festival’s global reach.


The roster includes captivating acts such as Plurism, Under the Surface, Lucile Chriqui, Palouse Forro, Himalayan Highway, Samundra Band, Dhrubesh/Friends of Sukarma, Nick Aggs & Cadenza Collective, and other exceptional Eastern classical musicians. Jazz, having evolved from its origins on the cobbled streets of New Orleans in the late 19th century, has branched out into various sub-genres, including Latin jazz, gypsy jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, and even Nepali jazz. Despite its diversification, jazz remains true to its roots, with improvisation at its core.


As Chettri explains, “Jazz is never constant; it is evolving. Culture is important in jazz.” When Jazzmandu first graced Kathmandu in 2002, jazz was virtually unheard of in Nepal. Today, not only do Nepali jazz enthusiasts make up a significant portion of the audience, but the country also boasts its own local jazz musicians, jazz schools, and student performers. Each year, the festival breathes new life into the local jazz scene by introducing fresh styles and trends while showcasing Nepal’s finest jazz talents.

Chettri emphasizes, “At the heart of the festival, we want to celebrate music and inspire a new generation of musicians.”

Highlighting the Artists

Plurism (Switzerland/South Africa)

Plurism features Swiss drummer and bandleader Dominic Egli, who collaborates with esteemed South African trumpeter Feya Faku and a stellar ensemble of musicians who share both friendship and musical sensibilities. Plurism is a unique exploration of African rhythm, featuring the nostalgia-infused drumming of Egli, the mesmerizing bass of Xaver Rüegg, Faku’s exceptional trumpet skills, the prolific vocabulary of Mthunzi Mvubu on alto saxophone, and Sisonke Xonti’s audacious yet vulnerable style on tenor saxophone. Plurism is known for its complexity, explosiveness, and the musicians’ ability to draw out more from each other and their audience.

Lucile Chriqui (France)

Lucile Chriqui, an award-winning singer-songwriter, represents the vibrant spirit of French jazz. Her natural musical and vocal talent was honed through training with American jazz singer Sara Lazarus and French violinist Didier Lockwood. Collaborating with international jazz talents like Philippe Baden Powell, Munir Hossn, and Nils Frechilla, Lucile’s music blends influences from Cuba, Andalusia, Brazil, and more, resulting in a unique and daring harmonic style.

Nick Aggs & Cadenza Collective (Australia/Nepal)

The Cadenza Collective, led by drummer and composer Navin Chettri, is an eclectic Kathmandu-based band that effortlessly navigates across jazz, afro-funk, and Nepali folk music, creating a genre-bending sound that’s irresistible. Joining them is Australian saxophonist and composer Nick Aggs, known for his work with Afro Dizzi Act and collaborations with renowned musicians. The Cadenza Collective already boasts seven albums of original music, and their latest release, “Himalayan Songlines,” promises to captivate audiences.

Himalayan Highway (Nepal)

Himalayan Highway, a Nepali-American instrumental fusion band formed in Kathmandu, weaves together American Bluegrass and traditional Nepali folk music. Their infectious harmonies and catchy beats create a unique global music collaboration.

Palouse Forró (USA)

Palouse Forró, named after the Palouse region of the northwestern United States and the Brazilian forró music, is led by American accordion player Adrian Crookston. This band introduces the much-loved Brazilian genre forró to the international stage, led by Crookston, who has shared his music with audiences across the globe.

Under the Surface (Netherlands)

Under the Surface is a remarkable collaboration of three generations of Dutch musicians, featuring the enchanting voice of Sanne Rambag, the melodic lines of Bram Stadhouders’ guitar, and the subtle percussion style of Joost Lijbaart. Their music offers both intellectual and emotional pleasure, combining improvisation with thoughtful composition.

As Jazzmandu enters its 19th year, it continues to inspire and celebrate music, setting the stage for the next generation of musicians. This harmonious celebration of jazz from around the world promises to be a soulful and enriching experience for all who attend.


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