The Music of Nälu: Behind the Scenes with J.L. Mbewe [Guest Post & Blog Tour]

I loved featuring fantasy author J.L. Mbewe as a guest blogger several years ago where she shared the inspiration behind some of the styles and clothing of her world of Nälu.  This week on July 11th, Curse Bound, the final book in The Hidden Dagger Trilogy will be released!  To celebrate, Laura A. Grace of Unicorn Quester has organized an awesome blog tour I'm happy to participate in and I have the honor of hosting Jennette on my blog again --this time to talk about the music of her diverse fantasy world!  Don't forget to read on after for info about a special Facebook Party (with prizes!) and find links to the rest of the blog tour:

I know. It sounds funny, doesn’t it? It’s a book. Why would we even think about the music you would find within the pages of a book? It’s not like you can listen to it while you’re reading. YET. Although, I have heard rumors and people talking about possibly creating the technology to couple music while you’re reading. Personally, I don’t think I’d like it, but that’s a different post for a different time. Ha!

When we write, we aren’t just creating pictures with words. We are immersing you in another time and place, a place rich with color, smells, flavors, and sounds. I might have gotten a little carried away with world-building, but today, it all pays off. I get to share a little about the sounds you would hear if you were to visit some of the places within Nälu.

And IF you’ve read A Princess No More, you will have greater insight into a certain pivotal scene in Curse Bound. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Let’s start in Secrets Kept. I hadn’t realized how much music played a role in this story until I sat down to write this post. Ayianna is in Badara during the Daeju Festival, so there is plenty of music to be had. But one song in particular overshadows all the others. I actually have the complete lyrics to it, written in Táchil, the language of power in Nälu. It is sung by the dancers as they weave a curse to place on all who hear it. The music could have sounded something like this:

[Jen: Ooh, I love the Celtic flavor of this!  I'm always in awe of the level of detail fantasy authors put in their world-building.  So many of you create your own languages and writing systems --it's amazing!  I'm kind of curious to know what the Táchil lyrics might look like ...]

Toward the end of Secrets Kept, our characters arrive in Bonzapur just as the city is about to celebrate the wedding feast of their king, so naturally Ayianna finds herself dancing, but I won’t tell who she is dancing with. ;-) The music she is dancing to was inspired by the Hang drum or handpan. Although, there is conflict over its name, I could not find the proper name. I apologize for the quality of the video, but my husband is singing in it. And the people who were with him are some of the coolest people I’ve met, Keona from France & England who are playing the Hang drums, and Keith Mullins from Canada, playing the djembe at Dollywood:

Here is a closer and better quality video of just the Hang or handpan:

[So, I did a little research --call it the librarian in me-- and I was blown away to find out that the Han is a fairly recent musical instrument!  I read in this article that it was invented in 2000 in Switzerland of all places ... Listening to it, I felt like it should have been from an ancient musical instrument, but a very cool sound nonetheless!]

In A Princess No More, we hear the driving drums and pipes of the northern Haruzos. They might sound something like these:

[Wow, I was familiar with Scottish pipe & drum bands but I didn't know about this Chinese group!  Their drums are called dagu and the sound kind of reminds me of Japanese taiko a bit, though the drums are different.]

In Clans Divided, we get the chance to glimpse life among the highland dwarves in Ta’vazi. [But] Ayianna and her companions never went beyond their dungeons and the Path of the Dead. Music here could sound something like this:

[How fun! I like how lively German folk music is!  P.S. You can get a copy of Jennette's latest short story, Clans Divided, for free by signing up for her newsletter!]

In Ganya, among the merfolk, their music is like the sea they call home. Fluid and powerful. Sometimes calm, sometimes not so much. Their instruments would include shells and flutes. You might hear something like this:

[Traditional Chinese music is one of my favorite instrumentals to listen to. Ancient Chinese instruments were classified into eight groups called bayin based on the material they were made of: bamboo, clay, gourd, metal, silk, skin, stone, or wood.]

This is just a taste of some the music behind the scenes. When building the world, I didn’t assign music to all the cultures and people groups. I went deeper when the scene called for it. Like when I mention the music. To be able to describe what Ayianna or the other characters were hearing, I wanted to hear it for myself. Or at least, I had to know what kind of instruments they might hear or be available to them. Thanks for having me, Jen!

 [Thank you for giving us a glimpse of the music you envisioned in your stories, Jennette!  I might pull up a playlist of these types of music next time I read your books!  Readers: Do you listen to music when you read?   Why or why not?  I occasionally will listen to instrumentals or soundtracks that I think fit the book I'm currently reading.] 

About Cursed Bound

"Kael's worse fears have come true. Betrayal has shaken the Guardian Circle, the High Guardian is dead, and Ayianna and Prince Vian are in the hands of the Sorceress, but he and his companions must finish their quest, before they can attempt a rescue mission. Unfortunately, Desmond's parting gift left them stranded on the western cliffs of Nälu. Jathil, once heir to the throne of Arashel, believes her father will aid them, but first she must face the crimes of her past. When she does, she could never believe the outcome, nor the rippling effect it would have on the nations. Meanwhile the Alliance braces for war, but division threatens to undermine their efforts. When Nerissa returns from Ganya with the dragon regiment, she discovers a bigger problem. The curse bound are waking. As the quest nears completion, Kael is forced to choose between his heart and duty, and neither choice bodes well with him. Either way, he will face the Sorceress and her armies sooner or later. The battle for Nälu has begun and there can be only one victor."

About the Author

Writing as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with her wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril. Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Her second novel, Darkened Hope was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Alliance Award.


Party Time!

Curse Bound is coming soon! Join us as we celebrate its release on July 11th, 2019 at 7pm - 10pm CST. There will be plenty of bookish fun, games, and giveaways. AND we have special guests Kyle Robert Shultz, Lindsay A. Franklin, and Jenelle Leanne Schmidt who will be joining us and sharing about their books.

Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, July 8th
Tuesday, July 9th
Wednesday, July 10th
Thursday, July 11th
Friday, July 12th
Saturday, July 13th
Sunday, July 14th


  1. This post was SO much fun!!! I love all the different musical feels and represents each of the people so very well! It's cool because their is an instrument that is strongly like (look and sound) the Hang drum played by a man at my church and love it! This one has a different sound slightly, but I love it. All these videos totally give all the vibes of these trilogy! Thanks so much for sharing, Jen!

    1. It was interesting looking up some of the instruments that were unfamiliar to me --the Hang drum seems similar to handpan and steelpan/drums.

      I really enjoyed seeing some of Jennette's inspiration behind the music and cultures of Nälu!

  2. Thank you for hosting me Jen!! I loved your inserts into the post as well!

    1. It was my pleasure! I'm very much looking forward to your next project! =D


Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! Comments are always welcomed and appreciated.

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