It was Day 1 of Jazzmandu: Jazz for the Next Generation. 3 local groups participated for a chance to play in Jazzmandu 2011. This was the first time that I was introduced to Neighbourhood, a six piece band from Stockholm formed by trombonist Kristian Persson in 2009. The auditorium could not have been more crammed. And I couldn’t have been more anxious to hear them perform. From the beginning, the energy in their music was clearly unmistakable. Their sound was strong, complete and well backed. It was astoundingly memorable to all those who saw them perform.

[quote_right]Jens Filipsson ‘“ Saxophones amp; Flute
Jonne Bentlöv ‘“ Trumpet
Edvin Nahlin ‘“ Keyboards
Aleks Brdarski ‘“ Bass
Sebastian Ågren – Drums
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Having been inspired by a range of sources, their music itself is unique and cannot be bound to a specific genre. Elements of jazz, funk, soul, Ramp;B shine in their original instrumentals primarily composed by Kristian. The horn section distinctly sets Neighbourhood apart from other jazz outfits; the arrangements of their tunes, especially the ballads reflect genuine harmony. Kristian (on trombone), Jonne (on trumpet) and Jens (on sax) complement each other perfectly. And if the horns weren’t enough of a treat for the ears, Aleks’ solid grooves locked in with Sebastian’s exceptional drumming takes you far. Sebastian makes it look easy and his solos always have clear motifs. Edvin’s comps are superb and his selection of adding colour made their sound novel each time around.

They showed great technique and musicality and their solos were well thought out and well executed. Kristian’s accuracy was more than impressive; his phrasing mind boggling and the control with which he played was phenomenal. Jonne stood out with his be-bop influenced sound as he shared in the Masterclass. Jens always stole the show with the occasional high accents and Edvin quietly smiled away while making his solos the icing above the cake. Aleks held everyone’s breath with his long and emotive phrasing; after every phrase you could go ‘wow!’ and hold your breath for another long pharse. Sebastian commanded his solos with mature dynamic precision and while he made it look easy, I’m sure it wasn’t.  Their distinctive on-stage communication and support is thoroughly entertaining especially when any single instrument is soloing.

Neighbourhood is truly an inspiring act.  Though forming only a couple of years back, they released their debut ‘Maybe Tomorrow‘ in 2010 and have received sparkling reviews not receding 4 stars. With such fantastic originals with such arrangements, you have to give them credit for being as innovative as they are. I personally would like to thank Kristian for making this possible; coming to Kathmandu and inspiring all of us who got a chance to watching Neighbourhood. Their album is available on Itunes and they also have a few videos on Youtube for you to check out! Or check out: myspace.com/jointheneighbourhood , where you can find their songs, pictures and tour dates.

Q. How did you hear about Jazzmandu? What made decide that you wanted to come to Nepal?

‘I just happened to find it on the internet. I liked the concept of music for peace and compassion and the idea of going to Nepal was really tempting as well.’ – Kristian Persson

Q. How was your experience in Nepal? Could you highlight some of the high points of this visit, hopefully individually?

‘Nepal seems to be a great country which is rich in nature and life. Kathmandu for me was really humbling. All the people we’ve met have been really friendly and easygoing. Our stay and gig up in Gorkana was really amazing. That together with the show in Pathan were we played with classical musicians was a true inspiration. The whole week was a highlight but if I had to single out a few it would be those two events.’ – Aleks Brdarski

‘Nepal was the trip and tour of my life, no doubt! From the moment we arrived at the Kathmandu Airport you immediately felt there was a very special and relaxed vibe in the air, something that I think affected all of us in a positive way. Everyone of us felt very welcome everywhere we went, the Nepali people are truly very friendly and welcoming. Every day was a highlight for me. I experienced so many wonderful and different things compared to my ordinary life in Sweden and I am grateful for every minute I got to spend in this amazing country!’ -Jens Filipsson

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Q. Kristian, I believe you are just 23. Considering your age, as a composer what advice would you give to young aspiring composers who want to perform their own compositions, but believe age is a ‘limiting’ factor?

‘One of the nice things about music is that its not limited to age. You can communicate with anyone regardless of age as long as you yourself have an open mind. And for me that´s one of the most important things when your´re working with music. When I was around 12 years old I was playing in a local big band, with guys that where in their sixties and even older than that! So for me age is just a number.’ – Kristian Persson

Q. How would you describe the scene (jazz, soul and funk) in Sweden?

‘It’s really flourishing right now with lots of young bands coming up with new fresh ideas and concepts.  The new generation of jazz-musicians also seem not afraid to be influenced by genres like pop and electronica to name a few and collaborations with electronic artists is getting more common, which we like!’ – Jonne Bentlöv

Q. How important do you think is proper formal and/or informal training when it comes to performance?

‘It´s depending on what music you are performing. Some music need it more then others but in our case I think its a mix of both. Its also depending on who you are and what suits you.’ – Kristian Persson

Q. Could you comment on some of the problems you’ve encountered in the past couple of years since the formation of this outfit?

‘Luckily, we all are very good friends in this band, which makes it pretty easy to tour and work together. Of course there has been times of arguments and different opinions regarding the music or other things concerning the band, but we have always been able to communicate and listen to each other, making it possible to find solutions that everyone feel comfortable with. Regarding the music scene today, and the jazz scene in particular, money is always an issue. You really have to work hard to be able to get out on tour and play your music. For us though, this just makes us wanna work even harder We believe in what we do and will always work hard for the opportunity to reach out to new listeners and spread our music around the world.’ – Jens Filipsson

Q. Your debut album has been compared to likes of E.S.T back home, with respect to their appeal to various audiences of varied genres. Could you comment on this a bit?

‘We feel very honored to be compared with such an amazing group who has really put Sweden on the global musical map. They have pushed the limits of what you thought a jazz-trio was suppose to sound like and never got stuck in any pre-determined genre. We hope that we share some of that same spirit in our music!’ – Jonne Bentlöv


Q. What is the secret of your band’s synergy and effective communication? Is it all practice or something else?

‘I think it’s a combination of everything. I think that it’s first and foremost about communication. We always try to communicate when we play together. If we don’t communicate, we don’t play together. However, we have all practiced individually on communication and playing together and locking in with other musicians. With that said I really bealive that we have something unique in our group. I mean we’re all good friends, but when we play together we just reach a new level. It’s really inspiring and that makes us all want to strive for something new everytime we play.’ – Aleks Brdarski

Q. What kind of emotion(s) does your music hope to express?

‘The emotions of daily life and it´s up and downs. Some of the songs express love and hapiness, some others express sorrow and sadness, some of them express anger and frustration. But whats common for all of them is the collective energy you can achieve if you work together. Working this way we always end up having a real good time together and that´s what we want to share with the audience.’ – Kristian Persson

Q. Any future plans and comments on Neighborhood and the music that you seek to explore and have already explored?

‘Our plan is to continue to do the things we do and to grow and improve as musicians and a band. We´re developing all the time and we´re finding new things to discover and explore more and deeper. Besides playing live we´re also working a lot in the studio, so we have new music coming up soon. We´re really excited about the new material so be on the lookout for our upcoming album!’ – Kristian Persson

Thank you and namaste for sharing with us with such wonderful music and giving us such memorable experiences. We hope ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ will be a great success. And we hope to see you again in the future and will be looking forward to it.

Moksh: Salvation through food, drinks and music

Moksh doesnt need any introduction. It is a brand name in itself. Established in the October of 2002, it has come a long way. Nine years since it first opened for service, the place has bettered itself with each passing year. For those who have been at this eatery know why it is one of the most happening place in town. It is indeed the perfect combination of food, drinks and music. It has become the destination for many, to spend quality time with friends.

Although, located in the premises of Gyanmandir in Jhamsikhel, Moksh actually introduces the area instead. The restaurant has a beautiful, serene garden with huge Kabanas and campfire which works equally well for either a sunny afternoon or a cold evening. During the day, the huge garden is perfect to have a cup of coffee and read a book, or even better use the internet because the restaurant has free Wi-Fi. In the evening, the place is perfect to gather around one of the campfires with some pals and enjoy barbecue.

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Moksh has a spacious indoors as well, which includes a bar and a party room. The bar gives a beautiful view of the west which is undeniably the best place to be during a sunset. One can sip a cool drink while watching the sun go down. The party room is where all of the live band performances happen. Moksh entertains guests with live bands twice a week i.e. Tuesday and Friday. The space is also available for celebrations or private parties, for which reservation is required. Moksh also has a hallroom where most of the corporate parties are held. The fantastic area of the restaurant is one side of the successful story, the other part is obviously the food. Along with the musical ambience of the place, the food served here is excellent.
Moksh serves a variety of cuisines including Nepali, Chinese, Continental and more. The menu is a little bit of everything. For the review we had Moksh’s special Salami firewood pizza and one of the new addition to the menu, Roasted Chicken Chilly which is also available in pork. The Salami firewood pizza was unbelievably good. The dough is a thin, crispy crust which is difficult to find in any other restaurants or pizza joints in town. It has Moksh’s secret sauce which compliments the dough perfectly. The sauce has a sour taste which is different and appealing. I couldnt stop eating the big, thin slices and when it was finished, I was left craving for more.

The Roasted Chicken Chilly is like any other chicken chilly, only that the chicken itself is roasted rather than the usual fried. The presentation was good, well garnished. The sauce was fine; nothing out of the box though. The chicken was roasted the usual tandoori style. It was well season. The meat was soft and juicy on the inside but crisp on the outside.  Overall, the entire experience was amazing and affordable. The small pizza  is Rs.250; the large being Rs. 450, and the Roasted Chicken Chilly is priced at Rs. 350. They accept all kinds of credit and debit cards as well, which is a relief. Another factor of great relief is the huge parking space available at the eatery. Hence, there isnt much to worry about when it comes to partying at Moksh and having a good time. Actually, giving it a second thought; being at Moksh means having a great time.

‘Acharya’ is not just a movie that covers the glorious musical career of one of the most acclaimed veteran singers, composers and songwriters of Nepal.  It is a tribute to a singer who recorded more than 450 songs in 16 years and a compelling personal story of a passionate music lover who defied all odds to achieve a dream that ended tragically, in such a short period of time. Produced under the banner of Silk Route Pictures, ‘Acharya’ is a biopic based on the life and struggles of Bhajan Siromadi Bhakta Raj Acharya.

The Biopic has succeeded to set a definitive landmark in the scenario of Nepali movies that has seen some varied examples and a few different dimensions of movie making lately. Directed by Prashant Rasaily, assistant director of the Hindi movie ‘Kites’ and screenwriter of ‘Kagbeni’,’Acharya’ has received considerable acclaim and was screened at the 13th Mumbai Film Festival. The movie stars Satya Raj Acharya (son of the acclaimed musician) who plays the role of his father.

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The biopic begins with a journalist (Sunil pokhrel) interviewing Bhakta Raj Acharya after he is admitted to hospital following cancer of the tongue. Bhakta Raj Acharya then unfolds his story to the journalist in front of his wife and two sons. It is from then on that the biopic fulfills its purpose of allowing one to find out a lot about a man whose life certainly gave people reason to reflect on the meaning of life.

Bhakta Raj Acharya’s musical journey began with him singing old Hindi songs and gazals under the guidance of an Indian performer in the small tea estate of Dooars, India after his family migrated from Dhankuta, Nepal. Following his father’s death, financial struggles and determined to sing for Radio Nepal, Acharya set off on a journey to Kathmandu and thus, was on his way to seeing his dreams come true.  Acharya went on to win the Rastriya Geet Sammelan in 1973.

Sadly, life had only started giving him what he truly deserved when an unfortunate incident involving some drunks (led by Saugat Malla in the movie) and a beating changed his life This was in fact only a catalyst for an even more tragic event – the amputation of Acharya’s most prized possession (his tongue). The turning point is poignant emotionally and adds a compelling despondency to the whole film.

Throughout the film one has the sense that it was in fact destiny that cut short a brilliant musical career and also stopped some fine music from being composed there after. This further causes one to contemplate whether it may have been fate that decreed such a heart- rending tale and that too, one that prompts the viewer to question whether Acharya was one of the luckiest or the most unfortunate humans born to this world.  It may be the distinctive irony of the story that causes one to really ponder the very question of man’s existence and karma giving the movie noteworthy leverage.

As for the actual construction of the film, the music is without doubt excellent, but fails to adapt to the plot in some scenes. Some lengthy establishing shots could have been shortened, and some other additional instances in the life of the protagonist instead, would have added significance. Also, in my opinion the intense post-amputation scene would have had a more profound impact on the audience if it had been shot for longer and wasn’t censored.  Furthermore, the authenticity of some scenes is questionable. But that said, it is just like those small dots on the moon that you see on a clear night and don’t know much about ‘“ If you want to know more about Bhakta Raj Acharya’s life, the film will clarify certain aspects yet leave you room to question.

As for the acting, Satya Raj Acharya is the highlight of the film. Although he may not be an acclaimed actor in Kollywood, he has proved himself truly worthy and has very much justified the character of his father. There are also cameo appearances by Legendary Gazal Maestro Ghulam Ali and a special appearance by the protagonist himself Bhakta Raj Acharya. To me, it is one of the best tributes a son can give to a father and a musician to his guru and inspiration. Overall, it was definitely worth the watch.

He grew with the river of Bagmati, the holiest and the dirtiest of them all. Alongside Bagmati, began the life of the slum-dwellers, the poorest of the poor with hungry eyes and empty stomachs. Everyday as the city folk drove their posh cars with their windows closed and air conditioners on, a little boy watched them in awe, wondering why he couldn’t sit on the same polished white leather seats. They make him angry; they sit comfortably with their big sunglasses perched on their noses, flipping through what looked like a book! The big round black glass looks strange to him, and he wonders why they always hide their faces.

‘Perhaps, they are devils’, he wonders, devils that hide their face during the daytime so nobody can find them and kill them. He has heard these stories from Drug dai. He often tells Ram these stories before they go to sleep.

When he watches these devils read books, ‘A book! A book! Why?’ he wonders.

Seven-year-old Ram opened one once only to find strange squiggles and curves staring at him. ‘Ha! How stupid can these folks be’, he thought. He would rather spend his time running across Bagmati, jumping over her stones and the white foam of the river that burnt his legs. It smelled disgusting, he admits, but it was home for him, the only place where the police wouldn’t force him to scamper from. He slept under the stars night after night, next to Bagmati, his mother. When it rained, he hid under the large sheets of plastic he had collected with his tiny hands. They would have sold for 5-10 rupees, and the kabadiwala would have bought them gladly, but he couldn’t sell it, not his plastic, his only home.

‘Ram! Eh Ram’, it was the drug dai waking him this time.

‘Hazur dai!, he got up almost instantly. Drug dai was one of Ram’s favorite slum dwellers. He too slept next to Bagmati on some days, and whenever he did, he made sure Ram’s stomach was full with hot food. Ram didn’t dare call him drug dai though, he wasn’t supposed to know. It was the shopkeeper who often sold him 5 rupee noodles that told him to stay away from Drug dai.

‘Eh Pucche! Don’t hang out with that druggie Bahadur! He will make you like him.’

‘You understand don’t you?’ he said pulling his ears.

Seven-year-old Ram perfectly understood. ‘Hyatteri! Ok I won’t, Let me go now’, he pulled away.

‘Eh Ram! Do you have any money’, said Bahadur.

‘No dai. Only two rupees in my pockets’

‘SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT!!!, Bahadur was stamping his feet.

‘Its alright pucche, go sleep.’

His body was hanging by the tree, as it swiveled in harmony with the blasting wind. Ram rubbed his eyes, once, twice, ‘no it couldn’t be’.

‘AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH someone help him. Bahadur dai, Bahadur dai’, he ran.

He touched his feet. COLD.

‘HELP, HELP HIM’, but no one heard him.

He ran all the way to the city.

‘POLICE DAI, POLICE DAI’

‘What is it now. You want to get arrested is it?’

Ram was sobbing now.

‘Police dai, Bahadur dai, tree, hanging’.

The policeman listened carefully. He understood.

‘Where’

‘Home. My home. My tree’

‘Where?’

‘I’ll take you’

No one knew what happened to Bahadur. No one cared but Ram. Ram cried under the tree, praying for his soul to be at peace. Bahadur had told him once that he was abandoned in the same river as Ram was. He, like Ram didn’t remember anything other than the river. ‘How did we survive? Who fed us?’ no one seemed to know.

The shopkeeper dai said they were abandoned when they were old enough to talk but they remembered nothing, no woman, and no man.

15-year-old Ram came everyday to visit his mother. She was dirty, discarded and untouchable like him. He worked nowadays as a labourer mixing cement, and building concrete homes for the touchables. With the little he made, he had rented a room with four other young boys like him. They had enough to eat one hot meal a day, and a place to sleep when the thunder shook the skies. Sometimes work dragged on till 8:00pm, sometimes 9:00 but never did he go home without visiting his mother. It was also the place he had cremated Bahadur dai, alone.

Watching the burning pyre of dead twigs from the very tree Bahadur had stood hanging, he felt he understood life better. ‘I was born alone, I will die alone’, and everyday as he watched human-relations, the mother and the child, the husband and the wife, the girlfriend and the boyfriend, he only felt sorry for them. He had loved once, unintentionally, his brother he would never recognize but only feel for, Bahadur.

Sometimes, he felt like he was waiting for his death, the day he would be liberated from the task of feeding his empty stomach.
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Then one day sitting on the shores of foaming Bagmati, he met Peter.

The man touched his diseased mother like she was precious. The strong sting of rotting garbage didn’t bother him, and he didn’t make an effort to scurry as she rushed to touch him.

Stubbing out his cigarette, unbelieving of what he had just seen, Ram rushed to the shore where the stranger stood.


‘Who are you and why are you here?’ he said with a certain authority.

‘Peter, and you?’ he said calm and unthreatened by his tattered clothes.

‘What are you doing here?’ he repeated

‘Oh! I’m just a traveller who loves nature’, he said

‘But this is not nature. This is hell. Disaster’, said Ram.

‘ No its not. I can see she was beautiful once, and like everything beautiful, she has been ruined’, he said.

There was a certain truth to his words that Ram understood with his heart. He didn’t feel so cold anymore.

‘She still is, if you look at her and the all the tears and sacrifices she’s given’, he said unaware of the sprouting words from his heart.

‘Indeed’, said the stranger.

‘Love is a terrible and beautiful disease. It makes us give up all we have for those we love the most, and live with nothing but all the peace in the world’, he said.

Ram was shaken. All this while, he had assumed his mother to be only his, realizing little that she was the mother to this country, this nation who had stolen all her beauty from her.

‘My mother, my mother, oh she gave all her beauty for the comfort and satisfaction of her children. She is sick, disease-ridden, discarded by her own children, yet gushes in their happiness and fights for their livelihood’, he said.

This time he peered into the face of the stranger, only to see that it was so white, unlike anything he had ever seen before. He noticed that his clothes were tattered too, not as much as his own, but not the best either.

‘Peter, where are you from and what do you do?’ he asked.

‘Lets sit down’, said Peter as they both crouched down watching Bagmati gush tears of love.

‘ A Long time ago, I was a famous businessman. In a place called New York, I owned corporate houses, banks, and lived the richest life you can imagine. I worked relentlessly, day and night and became the source of envy to everybody. My life looked perfect to everybody. I had done everything I had dreamt of, owned everything that I wanted but inside I was hollow- empty and had begun to question my existence. Suddenly, I wanted to die. I was ready and before I could kill myself, I wanted to see the city I had given my life to for the last time. I dressed as a hippie-tourist and left to see the places I had never seen. I walked after a long time in my life, and saw things I had forgotten about. I saw poverty, children under the influence of heavy drugs in little alleys, petty thievery, and sick people with no money to pay for their medical bills and beggars. This was supposed to be New York, the city of dreams and here I was watching dreamless lives. I knew then that I hadn’t done anything. All the money in the world was pointless when there was a starving child sleeping hungry in some part of the world. I couldn’t be in New York or any famous part of that world for that matter, so I quietly shifted to Nepal where I have started a few schools today’, he said beaming.

‘Are you saying that life is only worth living if you live for somebody else?’ asked Ram, comprehending the rush of excitement in his dead-life.

‘Precisely’, said Peter. ‘That is why Bagmati lives’.