Ever so often, you will see forced fusion. Often you will encounter two sets of musicians thrown together just under the moniker of ‘fusion’ to excite the crowd. Playing a sitar strapped to you will turn heads maybe, but does nothing except sensationalize a monumental instrument, when played right.
Fusion comes together like the stars aligning. There is no systematic thought process to it. It is but two rivers meeting, in an ocean of fluidity. Perhaps the first proponents of such were the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Led by John McLaughlin, the Mahavishnu Orchestra were a juggernaut of spirituality and creativity, infusing so many styles that you couldn’t possibly keep a track of. Their track The Inner Mounting Flame is a top recommend. Further, forward was infusing eastern classical ragas on a steel guitar, and who did that better, than Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhatt. So heralded was his style of play that he was honoured with performing at the Crossroads Festival in 2004 among guitar greats such as Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Steve Vai and Eric Johnson .
Now if we are to look homeward, the guitar playing of Hari Maharjan stands out. With his current album Sudina where he has worked with Kutumba, Maharjan has brought his jazz-influenced strings to folk, Karnataka music among many others. It is a delight and a must - listen to all.
Truly, fusion has made its mark all across the world and Nepal is no exception. One name synonymous with such, is that of one Anil Shahi. An international performer in his own right, Shahi has been propagating fusion music for two decades now. The man himself explains to us how it was for him, this journey of fusion. His ideals and ethos and how the sun shines on this dimension of music at present.
How did the guitar as an instrument attract you?
Well, the guitar mesmerized me from a very young age. I would see my friends play, who were usually senior to me, and I wanted to do the same. I’d see the guitar hung on walls and I had this immense urge to pick it up. So I started really at the age of 12, before that I was more into playing percussions and the flute.
How did you find yourself in fusion?
I started putting out music back in 2045 B.S and my first album was ‘My Mantra’. There was classical influence there, as it was what was close to me. I would look at artists playing just like the foreign guitar players, but I always wanted to create my own identity. Classical was close to my heart, still is, but over the years my mood changed with the types of music I found. I’ve played Arabic, Spanish, Indian Classical, Jazz styles and they are all very fulfilling to me. Personally though I would still say my speciality is the eastern classical ragas, and incorporating them in my music. I have always had the desire to create my own music, my own little world.
How has fusion music evolved then over the years here in Nepal?
When I started, the word ‘fusion’ wasn’t even around here. However, that doesn’t mean that fusion wasn’t happening. It was, but people just didn’t have that word. I found myself immersed in it and did everything to promote it and make it commercial. Now fusion is well known and much talked about. There is lok-dohori fusion now, folk fusion, pop fusion. It is all very nice as it brings in a very local taste through a very western channel.
You recently had the ‘Sultan Of Strings’ concert, how did that come about?
It was a very unique performance to say the least. We incorporated various songs but brought about a little change as well. There were songs that had a flamenco dance along with it as well. Before the show, there was concern among a few of my close friends as the date of the concert coincided with a very important football match and an NCell event, but I was confident. The Academy Hall has the capacity of 1500 people and I am happy to say that it was a packed house. And it was a great experience, and I look forward to the next one.
Lastly, where do you see the future of fusion here in Nepal?
I feel I am achieving all the goals I had set for myself, but the mind of the artist is never satisfied. So, I am constantly making new goals for myself as time passes. My target really, is not to do many concerts. I don’t have the inkling to perform in restaurants and pubs because I feel a performance shouldn’t be background music. I have the belief that our concerts should be in halls and stadiums. Why not? We have to have that self-belief and the trust in the masses that will help us achieve this. We should be encouraged to go big and shouldn’t get complacent with where we are. Along with that, I’m pleased to say that my new album should be out by the first week of August, so I am excited about that and look forward to making more music. !
Mano-a-mano with Dharmendra Sewan
Dharmendra Sewan and Bittu Bhandari label themselves as a ‘two-member band’ because the talented duo is self-sufficient and require no third person in their freestyle acoustic band. They have been mesmerizing the audience with some smooth vocals and melodious guitar tunes for over a year now. Fr!day speaks to Dharmendra to get an insight into their musical journey.
What roles do you play in the band?
Well the genre of music that we play is acoustic and for that, all we need is a guitar and some soothing vocals. I do the vocals and Bittu works his magic on the audience with his tranquil guitar tunes.
Why is music important to you?
Music is in our genes. My father Buddhi Pariyar is the composer and writer of the internationally acclaimed song, Resham Firiri, whereas Bittu’s mother took her music training from my father. Hence, we have both grown up with music as an important part in our lives.
Apart from the live music scene, what other projects are you folks engaged in?
We both are engaged in our solo projects. I have my third album named Rashtra Ko Geet releasing soon, and Bittu is involved with his first instrumental album The Battle of Faith, out in the market in about two months.
Is it an easy or a challenging task for a two-member band like yours to compete in the live music scene?
We wanted to differentiate ourselves from other mainstream bands. The two of us share a good rapport, and also our love for music makes us work even harder to give it our best. So yes, it has been quite easy a task for us to make a mark in the live music scene. (Samyak Moktan)