The Shadows

They claim to be mainstream, but different from the rest. They made their mark by bringing Nepali rock anthems to life which earned them the accolade of best group and best performers in 2006.  Then they disappeared.  With two guitarists busy in Australia studying sound engineering, The Shadows Nepal took a break, performing only one tour together within the last three and half years. In this time new bands have formed endeavouring to fill the rock music void The Shadows left behind. Now, after a much anticipated and long wait, The Shadows are back ‘“ well nearly!  Before rocking out to fans at home, The Shadows will embrace an Australian audience playing songs from both their second album, Hidne Manchhe Ladchha, and soon to be released third studio album.

Released in 2005, Hidne Manchhe Ladchha is a combination of hard and alternate rock. Making a point of representing real people and depicting real issues in their lyrics, The Shadows strike a chord amongst listeners who can relate to the different themes of their songs. This includes nature, navigating a new modernity, persevering against adversity, nepotism, humanism and peace.

I sit down with Swapnil Sharma, the lead singer of The Shadows Nepal, to find out a little bit more about the band, their impending Australian tour and what local fans can expect when they burst back onto the Nepali rock music scene at the end of the year.

I have been in Nepal for a while now and haven’t heard of the Shadows. Where have you guys been hiding?

We haven’t been hiding, we’ve just been apart and taking a break. Both the bass guitarist (Amit Pradhan) and lead (Prakash Rasaily) are in Australia, one in Melbourne and the other in Sydney, studying sound engineering so we couldn’t do much here in Nepal.

And what did you do in all that time?

We were in such a good spot when Amit and Prakash left that I wanted to maintain the momentum going and keep The Shadows visible to Nepali audiences. We hired a few different session guitarists who played with us at different events.  But the guys did come back in 2010 for vacation. We played 10 concerts in all different parts of Nepal and received a huge response from the fans. We are definitely ready and motivated to do that again.

But first you have an Australian tour?

Yeah, it’ll be the first time we play overseas as a band, everyone is really looking forward it. Last year Amit and Prakash performed at a few festivals and in Nepali music programs in Melbourne and Sydney. They had a really good reception from both Nepali’s living in Australia and the locals.

So you have some fans there already?

It seems that way. Australia is a popular destination for Nepali students. Many would have known us years ago so they are waiting for us to come. Not many Nepali acts make it down there so I think they are nearly more excited than we are. Plus with the internet and facebook people can stay connected with the music even when they are not here. And I have a few friends who also live in Australia so it’ll be great to see them again.

Although the songs you compose are mostly Nepali, do you have plan to sing a few tracks in English for the Australian crowd? 

I sometimes sing in English. The last track on Hidne Manchhe Ladccha, Looking at the Sky, is entirely in English and I do covers as well.  But the most exciting thing for us as a band is that we’ll be performing some of the new songs from the next album. A few have been released as singles but we haven’t had much chance to play them live. Beyond that, though, it is hard to schedule songs. Much of being a rock band and performing live is that you have to read the crowd. You have to feel their energy; if they want fast, we’ll give them fast. If the mood is a little slower than we’ll tone it down a bit.

 

What is the creative process like for The Shadows ‘“ how do you compose the lyrics?

As the vocalist I tend to represent the band as the writer but most of the time it is a group effort.  Everybody is always on the lookout for a new concept. Inspiration is everywhere. It could be from something you read while walking down the street or a conversation you have with someone. Our songs have a realistic, universal meaning so ideas can come from the everyday.  Whenever I write songs I have to work at it for a while. To express social issues you have to go to many places and talk to many people.

What’s your favourite song?

My favourite is Prakriti. It’s a popular song related to saving the nature and how we are all linked to the environment in a certain way. Every time I perform it I make a point of talking about the messages the song contains, about how we represent ourselves as nature. The audience response is very positive.

Any plans for a new album?

Once we come back from the tour and then Amit and Prakash join us at the end of the year, we will have a lot of time to concentrate on performing at home and working on a third album. Actually we have already recorded seven tracks for the next album and a few, like Kheladi Hun Ma and Paisa, have been released as singles. There are lots of new bands on the scene now so it’ll be nice to get back out there.

What can audiences expect from the new album?

It is still important for us to create songs with meaning. In a way the third album explores similar issues to before but the songs are written based on the current situation. One song Naya Nepal Purano Gatibidhi, for example, looks at the politicians repeated request for a ‘new Nepal’ but the song highlights how their practices remain that of an old Nepal. We want to send a message that it’s not ok and we want people to realise this. We have already aired a few songs and have had a good response.

Something we didn’t do much of on the last album was play slower tracks. This time if we have to convey a soft message then will play something a little slower. But the feel of those tracks will still hit the audiences hard and with meaning; they give you more time to think.

Well enjoy Sydney. I would suggest going to the beach but it is winter now.

Thank you, I am sure I will. Even if it is winter and cold I have to go to the beach and jump in! We are landlocked here so it will be my first time to see the ocean.

 

The Shadows Nepal are touring Australia in July
23rd July in Melbourne at HiFi Bar
24th July in Brisbane at the Souths League Club
31st July in Sydney at Oxford Art Factory

Rock Sitar

Rock Sitar, an Eastern style influenced rock band led by sitarist virtuoso Bijaya Baidya, has been around since 2008 and has performed extensively in and out of the nation. Verse caught up with the group, as they were getting ready to embark upon the Blues festival happening in Bruges, Belgium.

What sets Rock Sitar apart from other Eastern influenced rock bands is Vaidhya’s standing sitar, which is contrasting to the conventional idea of a sitar played whilst seated. The sound intonation of the instrument (tuned to E) is also different compared with a standard sitar. On stage, Vaidhya takes on a persona, which reflects a true musician who has pioneered a new kind of sound. He commented, ‘I always wanted to play guitars. However, I could not find a place to go and learn the instrument in depth. So I chose sitar because I could study the instrument well.’ He completed his Masters Degree in Music from Allahbad, India.

Every member has been involved for over a decade in the active music scene. Most notably, Vaidhya is popularly identified with Sur Sudha, an instrumental group popular since the 90’s and Tuladhar with the popular folk rock band, Nepathya. Their music is mostly instrumental and explores Eastern melodies over a rock setting. Both the flute and the sitar share the melodies while the guitars and bass provide the rock foundation. The overall sound is a unique blend, which the group says, is an addition to the traditional elements found in eastern classical music.

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Line-up
Bijaya Vaidhya
‘“ Sitar
Pratap K.C
‘“ Flute
Suren Lama
‘“ Guitar
Nikhil Tuladhar
‘“ Drums/ Percussions
Deepak Shakya
‘“ Bass
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One of the easiest ways to become an active listener is by noticing the chemistry between the players, live. It says a lot about how the art form is explored. Watching them live, it was clear that not only were these musicians experienced but they also made it look seemingly easy. The improvisation aspect was very alive in their playing and the themes of the compositions were reflected here as well.

Vaidhya composes most of their songs by coming up with the melody which is then built upon by each member, providing their ideas into the structure. Till date, they have released 3 albums: Chants of Himalaya, Rock Sitar and Sitar Sudha. The songs are very emotional in nature and though instrumental, they do have a voice crying out emotions that leave a deep lasting impression. They make you want to come back and listen again. The soothing melodies give their sound a distinct eastern feel, which comfortably fits over the rock elements. The name Rock Sitar thus is a perfect description of the nature of the band’s goal to fuse Eastern and Western components without harming the musical output of either side.

Rock Sitar have toured the globe extensively and are very excited this time about their summer tour of Belgium. On an international level, they believe they are representing Nepali art and culture through their music. They are also anxious about the audience that will be part of the festival there. Though the members are not unfamiliar to performing in different groups, ensembles and other performances abroad, this tour is a first together to Belgium.

The sight of Vaidhya pulling a Jimi-move on the guitars with his teeth is always a welcome sight. Other on-stage antics include flute runs, sounding like shred runs by K.C. and diverse blues licks from Lama. Moreover, it reflects the positive energy coming out of the band as a whole. The mellow nature of their songs shows expression of the top level from this bunch of talented upbeat professional musicians in the modern Nepali music scene.

Riding Into History


Nirakar Yakthumba, of 1974 AD, a well known figure in the Nepali music scene, is now making a name for himself as a cycle and environmental enthusiast. As one of the founders of Life Cycle, a cycling resort in Hetauda, Nirakar talks to Verse about the organization, the benefits of cycling and his hopes for greater accessibility to alternate modes of transport in Kathmandu.

How did your early days influence your ideas towards environmental conservation?

I spent a lot of time outdoors: hiking, cycling, camping and rock-climbing. I loved nature and spent a lot of time in the wilderness.

Do you always use a cycle?

I cycle most of the time but I use a vehicle too. It is not practical to cycle all the time. I work as a cycle guide and regularly take groups on cycling expeditions.

 

Tell us something about Life-cycle.

Four of us started this organization. We began with a plan to take cycling to places where mainstream tourism has not reached. We have started camping in places where people can go stay, relax, cycle and swim. Although it has only been around for two months, after September it will be carried on in full-swing. We are trying to project this in the local as well as international market.

Have you allocated specific locations for these cycling trips?

We have started the program in parts of Hetauda, Bishankhu-Narayan and Nawalparasi.

What age groups of people have usually been coming as part of your cycling trips?

There have been people from all age groups.

How have the local people been responding?

We have been training some local people to work with us and this has provided employment opportunities. Their involvement has been an integral part of our organization. We have also been trying to make proper bike parks in these places using natural and local materials.

What made you come up with the idea for this initiative?

Cycling is something I enjoy a lot and you might as well do something you enjoy. If you manage to make your hobby your job it does not feel like you are working.

Let us know something about Chain, the company.

Chain was started by twelve cyclists. We got together and designed the first mountain bike of Nepal. The parts are manufactured in China and assembled and sold here.

What difference can a user find between imported bikes and these bikes manufactured in Nepal?

The bikes made here are cheaper. The purpose of manufacturing these bikes was to allow everyone to be able to afford a mountain bike. A foreign mountain bike comes for around 40 thousand rupees or above, while these bikes will cost around 20 thousand rupees.

As a cyclist, how challenging do you find the roads of Kathmandu?

It is really very dangerous to cycle in the streets of Kathmandu. We do not have dedicated lanes and cycle signs. The traffic is very crazy and you have to be very careful while riding a cycle.

Can public transport be replaced by cycle transport in Kathmandu?

Of course it can. In the early 90s, when there were conflicts between India and Nepal for the Trade Treaty, everyone was riding bicycles. It was fine then, we didn’t even require traffic lights. The environment was saved of pollution. People still reached their destinations on time.

During your travels, have you found any difference between the cycling scenario here in Nepal and abroad?

In many foreign countries the government encourages city-cycling. There are minimum charges for cyclists and separate cycle stations and cycle lanes etc. There are a lot of facilities unlike Nepal.

How do you plan to carry this project forward?

I do not know about road biking, but mountain biking is certainly coming up and I’m sure it will do well. We are going to do as much as possible to help it. It is good for health, environment and tourism. That is why we are promoting mountain biking. I cannot say anything about road biking though. I would not advise a young biker to ride on Kathmandu’s streets because it is dangerous. I would recommend them to ride the bicycle outside the valley and enjoy the nature there instead.

Any last words to those enthusiastic about cycling?

Cycling is not a competition. Try to make it a lifestyle. You will always enjoy it. You’ll be able to see different things and places, especially in Nepal. I’ve been able to go to many places in Nepal and meet many people which I would never have been able to had I been in a car.

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amour des Summer

Am I the same girl with thick geeky specks who recalls listening to stories of her great grandmother worshipping sun as God because it was the only visible and powerful thing was venerated? Am I the same little daddy’s girl who understood when he explained that ‘the sun gives us heat and light and helps us to remove darkness and brings light all around the world’? Am I the same girl with a clasped ponytail and Pinocchio nose who would run from her mothers lap just to peep through the window every morning to see the birds welcome the sun with a lovely chirping song? Am I the same girl who, at age five, would sit beneath the sun for an hour just because her aunt told her that sun provides vitamin D which is essential for your skin?  And finally am I the same girl who when she saw the sun fully rise would yell to her little brother excitedly ‘it’s a new day, it’s a new day’?

Caught up in the vortex of my hectic professional life, I don’t know if I realize the importance of the sun and summers anymore. But I still memorize the times that I did. So pacing through the wheels of my past, I remember back in school where I learnt two facts aboutsummer:

One: summer is usually the warmest season of the year, occurring between spring and autumn. In the Northern Hemisphere that is June, July, and August. Or, as calculated astronomically, summer is the period extending from the summer solstice to the autumnal equinox. The second fact was we were guaranteed a two month vacation.

And then in a gazebo amidst lime green lemonade, golden hued tans, Clinique- SPF 40, and lots of giggles came college. Here my knowledge extended a little more and I started thinking of summer as this seasonal delight when it was perfectly acceptable to ogle shirtless guys like it was a sport, wear your bikini, strapless, bandeau or halter neck day and night, and play even harder than you work.

As if a spell, my innocence in school and kinkiness in college passed away like an open bottle of scotch. Presently I am almost dehydrated wrestling with a crafted couch in my small dingy room without an A. C, literally roaring at the sun like I never loved it earlier. Still frustrated with the partially functional cooler and my perplexed nutty brain that was trying to convince me that summer wasn’t that bad, I switched on the idiot box to catch a glimpse of my favorite fashion TV. Of course they were simply showing the scents and style of summer.

Now that I don’t watch anything apart from fashion TV, I started irritably gazing at the crème de la crème of the fashion industry dressed up in hues of rich red, gorgeous green, beautiful blue, pretty purply pinks, yummy yellow posing and pouting in front of multihued striped walls and dreamy shelled beaches.

I presume my brain deciphered my instant liking for summers and only when the scorching heat passed away with a watermelon cocktail. I was reminded ‘don’t let the dull dead summers take on you woman! Summer is red, white and blue. It’s flags and fireworks, hot dogs and mustard, cold watermelon and sweet corn and its much more that you are failing to see.’

I realized at once that the innocence of school and kinkiness of college wasn’t lost after all. Fashion TV and my wit managed to remind me of the tinges and vogues of summer. But, still, don’t the roasted rays of summer really get to you sometimes? So what do you do? Perhaps sit idle indoors or maybe surf the net. Ultimately, though, summer is bound to come around every year so the best solution is just to embrace it.

Splendid ways to thrash the summer heat

Come summer and its time to think of ways to beat the heat. While having fun in the sun, we may actually throw caution to the wind! Dr. G S Rao, Managing Director of Yashoda Hospitals, says that heat-related ailments can really be injurious if not immediately addressed.

According to Dr. Rao, some of the most ordinary ailments we face in such high temperatures include dehydration, heat exhaustion, heat cramp, skin diseases, heat (or sun) strokes and water-borne diseases like diarrhea. In order to prevent dehydration, make sure you drink lots of water. ‘Symptoms of dehydration include thirst, light-headedness, dry skin, fatigue, less-frequent urination, dizziness, muscle cramping and dry mouth,’ says Dr Rao.

People also have a tendency to suffer heat strokes during this season. These can be fatal as well resulting in death. Heat stroke symptoms include headache, dizziness, high body temperature, dry, flushed and hot skin without sweat, confusion or disorientation, fatigue or sluggishness, rapid heartbeat, seizure and hallucinations. ‘If someone is stricken with heat stroke, move the person indoors, remove clothes, apply ice packs to groin and armpits, apply cool water and fan to stimulate sweat and call for medical assistance immediately,’ advises Dr.Rao.

Another ailment that crops up in high temperatures is diarrhea. ‘Diarrhea generally occurs due to food poisoning, a health hazard faced due to consumption of contaminated food. Summer is characterized by high heat as well as humidity that are considered as main factors for high contamination of food with bacteria, since bacteria thrive in these conditions,’ explains Dr Rao.

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Tips to beat the heat:

– Wear light-coloured, cottons

– Protect yourself from the heat with sunscreen lotion, caps, umbrellas

– Drink plenty of fluids to keep the body hydrated

– Don’t eat raw food from street stalls/street vendors

– Ensure all vegetables are cleaned well before being consumed

– Don’t venture out between 1 pm and 4 pm

– Electrolyte balance is a must so drink fresh fruit juices, coconut water    and the like

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