Monday, March 2, 2009

For the love of music

“Anyone who has the money and the contacts are making music these days, which is not right.”

by PRAVAT J GURUNG (wavemag)

If one were to closely scrutinise the path to success, passion would always take precedence. It drives a person to set out on a journey which is difficult and at times unheard of, often taking matters into their own hands. And this month, we feature two fine young lads who are all set to bounce and pounce into the Nepali music industry.

Though he's new, Himalaya Rai has the passion and Rinchen Palzar aka Rajib, lead guitarist of Abhaya and the Steam Injuns, is right behind him teaching him the tricks of the trade. Together, they create a record company and a wholesome package ready to give out their best.

"I was just 17 when I realised that music is what I wanted to do and I'm happy now" says Himalaya, "I am very much thankful to Rajib dai and Abhaya di for taking me under their wings and making me realise that it was something that I could do." Himalaya met Rajib when he was in college while Rajib was here in Kathmandu holidaying from Darjeeling. "He used to bunk college and come to my place to talk about music. I was amazed by his sense of music," says Rajib. A big fan of Abhaya, the conversations were then taken outside the four walls and onto the streets as Himalaya acted as a guide to Rajib around the streets of Kathmandu. "I didn't know much of this place," remembers Rajib.

Rajib always knew music is what he wanted to do and when Abhaya offered him a place in her band, he was more than happy to join. It's been 7 years since he's been playing music and by the looks of it, he doesn't have any plans of retiring any time soon. Besides playing for the band, he also composes music. Himalaya, on the other hand, is a shy 21-year-old but his enthusiasm for music helped him reach where he is now. "My dad understood my love and passion for music and he is the one who encouraged me to start a music label," says Himalaya.

Their similar interests and personalities resulted in the establishment of 360 Degrees Records. "We started the company to promote artists who have the talent. Himalaya wanted to open a recording studio at first but then he changed his plans and we opened 360 Degrees Records," reveals Rajib.

The company of late has produced Nayan, the latest album of Abhaya and the Steam Injuns. "Anyone who has the money and the contacts are making music these days, which is not right," say the duo with a hint of annoyance. But we can't deny it either. A quick flip of the channels on TV attests it, making us question if singers, producers and not to forget the listeners are tone deaf. Hence, 360 Degrees Records aims to promote the fact that music is a gift that only few are blessed with.

Though just on the initial stage of their musical journey, the path has been good for both of them. They plan to produce and promote quality music. But they feel their journey wouldn't have been as smooth without the help of Biplob, Abhaya, Kai, Manohar, Anup Prakash, their band members of the Steam Injuns and all those who've supported them over the years. Tune in to quality music, musicians and artists from 360 Degrees Records soon. For more information, log on to


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rite of Spring Nepali style

KATHMANDU, March 1(Republica)
How many times in life do you get to see a jazz player sit cross-legged, like a yogi, and match the tunes of a sitar with his saxophone?

The matching was almost perfect and the overcrowded venue at Rashtriya Nachghar at Jamal did not feel the need to note the difference. It was Friday evening at Sukarma´s annual solo concert this year, featuring Mariano from the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory (KJC).

"I´ve done this a few times," a bespectacled Mariano grinned as his eyes moved to and fro in amusement. "Actually, very few times!" Then he looked at his shoes sheepishly, looked up and smiled before a bunch of admirers encircled him again.

Mariano was joined by Jan on piano in classic folk tunes at Sukarma’s annual gala affair. This time, the band performed nine fresh compositions they had prepared specially for this spring concert. The show christened "Ritu Shrawan" was light and soothing to match the mood of spring.

The trio of Dhrubesh Chandra Regmi, Shyam Chitrakar and Pramod Upadhyaya mesmerizing the crowd again is hardly any news anymore, especially with Shyam playing murchunga, a Nepali instrument akin to the Jewish harp. Rounds of applause swept the hall. Hari Maharjan, formerly of Nepathya fame, was on guitar and Umesh Pandit, his flute a few inches longer than his hand, put in a stupendous performance.

Shekhar Kharel, the event manager, said in his welcome speech that the concert was for "free people of free countries" as music cannot be confined by geography. He forgot to add a tiny detail that pulled many to the concert – the program was free of cost.

"We´re doing this because there is an immediate need to bring classical music to the attention of as many as possible," said Dhrubesh Chandra Regmi, the sitar maestro of the band. "Not many people still want to spend money to come and listen to classical."

Photo: Bijay Rai

Sharing his experience during a recent four-month European tour, Regmi added, "Since we´re sandwiched between India and China, people think Nepali music is a hybrid of the two." According to him, many people in other parts of the world mistake Indian music for music from India. "Indian music applies to all genres of music found between the Indian Ocean and the Himalayas," the doctorate in the history of Nepali music said.

Sukarma is often accused of distorting classical music. But Regmi says in defense that classical music is not necessarily what we´ve been playing for centuries. Dhrubesh, son of renowned sitar virtuoso Krishna C Regmi, added, "Like everything else classical music evolves too."

Sukarma is a folk and classical instrumental trio formed in 1997. Within a decade, the group has established itself as a major presence and represented Nepali music in many country including the USA, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, France, Austria and Germany, to name a few.