Rock in Nepal

Soundtrack for this post: ‘Katha’ by Newaz and ‘Jogale Huncha Bheta’ by Nepathya.

I have now been living in Nepal for just over six months.  During this time I have seen only one gig.  But I have seen it many, many times.  You see Nepali bands (at least those that play in Thamel and Lakeside, the tourist areas of Kathmandu and Pokhara) stick pretty strictly to covers.  And they tend to be the same covers: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bon Jovi, Jimi Hendrix, early Bryan Adams, Guns N’ Roses and – absolutely mandatory – Hotel California by The Eagles.  It can be fun if you’re in the mood, and the players are often excellent, but it is not exactly what you would call a thriving music scene.

Rock in Pokhara

I finally got my first taste of original Nepali popular music at ‘Rock in Pokhara’ last November.  A one-day festival, the stage was shared by rock groups from Pokhara and Kathmandu.  There was some real excitement among punters over a few of the Kathmandu bands who are quite successful and had never before played in Pokhara (Nepal’s third largest city).

Headliners such as Mukti and Revival and Newaz (with an Australian alumni on vocals) are typical of the rare subcontinental band that is able to make a living from its music: they are hard.  In contrast to Southeast Asia, where the mainstream appetite favours saccharine pop, young South Asians generally like their music to be rock, and their rock to be hard.

Although the music at Rock in Pokhara was (mostly) original, it was still strongly influenced by western popular music.  The excellent weekly Nepali Times recently published an article on a new band trying to fight Nepali cultural cringe and create a fusion of traditional Nepali folk music and more contemporary sounds.  Yak Attack aren’t my cup of tea, but I do appreciate what they’re tying to do.

One of the pioneers of this sort of fusion is a band called Nepathya, formed in the early nineties.  Their song ‘Jogale Huncha Bheta’ (I have tried unsuccessfully to get the title translated; it seems to have something to do with serendipity) is without a doubt my highlight whenever it is played by the Lakeside cover bands.  It is clearly a highlight for Nepali music lovers too.

OK so I haven’t drawn out any political connections in this post.  But I have written on Nepali politics elsewhere.  So if you’re interested I suggest listening to the playlist above while reading this article I wrote last November, which endeavours to give a brief overview of the recent history of politics in Nepal, and this one from a couple of weeks ago, which provides an update and a bit of a critique of Nepal’s politicians.

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2 Comments

  1. Rock in Nepal « World Politics Blues | Today Headlines
  2. Fortnightly(ish) Review: Hip-hop in Mali, Nepal, Springsteen and Uzbek Elite Pop « World Politics Blues

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