Dallahan & Kutumba in Nepal

I’m atypically early for Dallahan’s show at The Green Note in Camden. As a result, there are not many in, but it steadily fills up and warms up too before the band take to the stage. I’ve heard their album – a swirling concoction of energetic Celtic folk with a modern twist – but still don’t know exactly what to expect in the flesh. For some reason I’d expected a percussionist but soon realise there isn’t one, and there doesn’t need to be one as they have the audience voluntarily foot stomping away in no time.

“Our original idea [as a band] was to play Irish music with our own take on it, then more and more different styles and genres started to creep in” says Jack, their gutiarist and singer. “We never seemed to run out of new ideas and we would like to think that as a result [we’ve developed] a sound that is colourful enough for everybody to find something they like about it.”

This music may not be to everyone’s taste of course, but their enthusiasm, humour and easy going way with the gig is intoxicating. I leave feeling thoroughly entertained and genuinely uplifted, like I’ve been to a sort of secret quasi-religious gathering. I’m not sure what just happened but it was definitely a good thing.

The ease with which Dallahan move through the gears of the performance, taking everyone with them, shouldn’t come as a surprise. This is a band that, to use the cliché, have really clocked up the air miles in recent years. They’ve been to America, numerous venues in Europe and, for the British Council, Nepal. “It is every musicians dream to take their music to many different parts of the world and meet new cultures, music, people and get inspired by it”, says Jack.


Dallahan - Logan


Nepalese people are some of the kindest, friendliest people you will ever meet

The British Council arranged for Dallahan to travel to Kathmandu, to team up with Kutumba and perform a show as part of Britain-Nepal bicentennial celebrations taking place at Hotel Yak and Yeti in Durbar Marg. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time the two bands had played together. “Yes, we collaborated with Dallahan [in 2014] in Edinburgh,” says Arun Gurung from Kutumba. “We knew from the beginning that it was going to sound more than amazing because we have collaborated before and rehearsed for just half an hour but this time we had four days.”

Jack concurred, “Nepalese people are some of the kindest, friendliest people you will ever meet and working with Kutumba was an absolute joy. They are exceptional musicians and they incorporate a lot of different influences in their music. They already knew a good selection of Scottish and Irish tunes and learned some of our sets, so we had absolutely no musical or language barriers to create music together. The concert was a great success and we took a good few Nepalese tunes with us. It was a fantastic opportunity to visit this amazing country and we felt privileged to work with Kutumba.”

There was even a gig for Prince Harry thrown in. “We were asked in the last minute to perform at a reception for Prince Harry at the British Embassy,” says Jani, Dallahan’s fiddle player. “It was a lovely gig, but very different from our main gig at the Yak And Yeti where we played for the Nepalese people. It was great to see how much the audience love Kutumba and their own traditional music. The crowd got up as soon as they started to play and started dancing. It just got even better when we joined forces and the night ended with the two bands sharing the stage and the audience dancing away.”


Kutumba - Pariwartan


Although I can hear similarities in the music of Kutumba and the music of Dallahan, I wondered how two groups from such different parts of the world managed to find common ground. I asked them both what they felt the similarities were in terms of Nepalese and Celtic folk music. “We find the blowing instruments like flute and also drums look and sound quite similar” said Arun. Jani continued, “deep down every folk music has similarities ... as we started working we found more and more tunes that worked together. It was also amazing to hear some of our own compositions being played on a sarangi and Nepalese drums.”

I also wonder how this most British of bands manages to transmit their usual stage persona and same sense of humour without the language. “It is always difficult to get the stage banter right when you are in a different country,” Jani explained, “but it seemed like we managed to get through to the audience both musically and verbally. As they don't often hear the kind of music we play performed live, they paid close attention to everything we played and we received a lot of compliments after the concert, so I think we did well and managed to introduce our music to the Nepalese audience.”

– Stephen Bloomfield