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Singing Bowl Story
11 October 2009-Sunday

-Latshering Glan

It was something like a travelogue when I had my way to different corner shops in search of what the bowl like structure really is? I knew that it was singing bowl that produces booming sound when a stick like structure is rubbed round its surface. I also do remember the quotation, 'Better know half things than know many things.' Jarringly, I have known that many people wonder what that really is. Is it a bowl to have soup? My daylong stopover to such shops around Bouddha and Thamel pushed me to say that it is a breathtaking musical instrument. 

Having a coffee with Arjun Chainpure (instructor at Nepal Musical Instrument Centre) at Thamel, I had my nosiness filled up with irrefutable answers. Even though many tourists call it a Tibetan bowl, Arjun Chainpure traced its origination to be in pre-historical era of Nepal. He asked me to close my ears and played his self released audio album. At the same time, he gave his hand to a big singing bowl (preferably says 'Music bowl') and made me float in its humming sound. Having asked, 'Why such musical instrument is not in use?' he heatedly answered, 'hamra pustalai guitar bokda mahan lagchha ani traditional instrument bokda laaj lagchha'. Arjun Chainpure was a madalist in Rastriya Naach Ghar, he left his job in 2030 B.S. Since then, he has been running his musical business in Thamel that is situated beside the Potala Guest House. 

In Buddhist practice, singing bowls play the part of a catalyst in support for meditation, trance induction and prayer chanting, striking it when a particular phrase in a sutra, mantra or hymn is sung. Many stories are also been made regarding singing bowls. Some people say they were used for meditation while others say they were magical tools for transformation of self and of matter. Definite of the origin of singing bowl has not been made up to date but Arjun Chainpure opined it for being used by Gautam Buddha during collecting for alms. Singing Bowls were widely used in the ancient times in Nepal and Tibet mostly by the Buddhist monks for meditation, religious ceremonial music, for praying as pray bowls, as traditional musical instruments, using for sound therapy, sound massage and as a tools for holistic healing. Over the years, he has been touring different countries in Europe with his singing bowl and shared his experiences about it among the people living there.

Singing bowl produces complex chord of harmonic overtones, warm bell tone and continuous humming sound when a friction is applied around the rim of the bowl with a stick varying from wooden, plastic or leather wrapped mallet. The overtones of this multiphonic and polyharmonic instrument are due to the use of an alloy consisting of multiple metals, each producing its own overtones. New bowls can also produce multiple harmonic overtones if they are high quality bronze, but many are made from a simpler alloy and produce only a principal tone and one harmonic overtone. Arjun proved the difference between traditional singing bowls against the bowls produced in modern times. The difference is the quality of the alloy and the aging process itself. The tone improves as they age, so new bowls cannot sound as warm and mellow as a real antique.

We can at least emphasize the instrument even if we are not a professional musician.  

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