The back story of international musicians in Nepal

Known for its Freak Street amongst the hippies and a haven for temple lovers, Kathmandu has been loved by individuals from the West and the East for its cultural potpourri and religious importance for Hindus and Buddhists alike. This appreciation from foreigners is also represented at times when they spread their melodies in our airwaves.

For the past few months, especially in November, there were a surprising series of concerts and musical performances being held in Kathmandu by local organizers that featured international artists from countries like the USA, Italy, Poland, Denmark, France, Switzerland and India. The November fever that hit the music scene of Kathmandu left it wanting more. The musical extravaganza continued till the first week of December.

Organized to cater to international music enthusiasts who are musicians or lovers of musical genres such as metal, blues, jazz, reggae and indie pop, events like Silent Fest, Himalayan Blues Festival, The Copenhagen Jazz Quartet, Flagas’k live in Kathmandu and Mohit Chauhan live in Kathmandu were held in the valley almost ike a chain reaction that exploded one after the other. Local organizers in association with local sponsors were behind all these shows. This shows that the organizers are fighting back against the entropy prevalent in the Nepali music scene. This was shamefully revealed to the world when Deep Purple had to cancel their gig in Kathmandu seven months ago.

Keen to restore their past glory, the organizers of Silent Fest were more than happy to give the crowd what they do best by bringing international aritsts like Behemoth (Poland), Derrick (Switzerland) and Zygnema (Poland), following strict timings (probably to prevent the annual ‘without any reason interrogation’ by the police) and slightly raising the ticket prices this year. It was held in November at the Bhrikutimandap grounds.

On the softer side, the Himalayan Blues Festival scored high with the presence of reputed guitar players and musicians along with performances by international artists such as Long Tall, Deb and Colin John (USA), French Cowboy & the One (France) and Mr. No Money (Italy) at venues like 1905 and Patan Museum. Likewise, for the sake of sophisticated easy listeners, there were a series of jazz workshops and gigs organized by the Kathmandu Jazz Conservatory in locations like Moksh and Jazz Upstairs. The international artists were Simon Thorsen (Northern Europe), Per Mollehoj (Denmark) and Graig Earle (Canada). Both events took place in November.

Also making its mark on the same month, Mohit Chauhan’s live performance invited Hindi pop fans to the Tundikhel ground with glee. With prominent local artists opening the show, the Indian hitmaker enthralled attending fans who were singing his tunes along with his surprise Nepali covers like Chiso hawa ma and Resham firiri. His performance also marked an evident fact that Nepali music lovers enjoy Hindi pop as much as any other genre.

Most recently, an interesting performance was held on December 3 at the Alliance Francaise in Kathmandu (AFK) premises in Teku when the band Flagas’k from France performed their reggae numbers for an audience who came to see their show for free. This was a very interesting cross-cultural exchange in a sense. As all songs were sung in French, there were only a handful in the audience who actually understood the lyrics. But the crowd seemed to enjoy the show, as the music the band was playing was really soothing.

Amidst the vague inconsistencies that our local music scene faces, 2013 proved to be a year when musicians truly paid their tributes toward developing Nepal’s musical scene. The figures add up to the underlying question that has been existing as a gossip amongst us listeners: If some event organizer commits to bring an international celebrity band like Deep Purple again, will we buy tickets like we did for the Bryan Adams or the Michael Learns to Rock shows? !