By Saloni Rai
Photos by Sworup Ranjit
- Besides being a singer-songwriter, what else do you do?
Currently, I am living a life of someone who creates financial spreadsheets, and in between, manages time to be a self-respected Nepali collaborative artist in a non-Nepali world. I primarily write, but lately, writing is not making the cut for me. This is why I started recording in 2015.
- You’re always grateful towards your mother (aamaji); tell us more about her.
I was raised in a very musical joint family, and my aamaji and her sisters would always play antakshari. Until I was 10 years old, I believed that the entire world sings like my family. Besides, one of my warmest childhood memories is aamaji and papaji (father) singing me a lullaby together to sleep. Though my maternal aunts and papajji have equal contributions, my aamaji, in thousands of ways, pushed me into the world of music persistently.
- Could you share a music-related story about you and your mother?
My mother is obsessed with mugging up lyrics of songs, and she has always been liked that. I must have been barely seven years old, and I remember how my mother used to mug up the lyrics of songs played on the radio. Since songs didn’t use to get played on repeat, I was her deputy helping her transcribe the lyrics during instrumental breaks though some words didn’t use to make sense to me. This was how I began to get so caught up in words.
- How did she help you get into music?
My mother was persistent with me through all times: my debut recording at 10 years old, my hidden debut single at 16, my first piano lesson, etc. Sometimes, she used to get into trouble in the family for supporting me too much. She even bought an expensive keyboard for me when it was out of our budget. Today, she is the one who reads all the YouTube comments and monitors the number of views. She is always there.
- Were there any instances when you were annoyed with her?
Yes, in my teenhood. She used to make me sing at every single family gathering, and it used to traumatise me. Moreover, she forced eastern vocal lessons on me when western vocal lessons were the cool thing. She forced the keyboard on me when the guitar was the coolest thing. She used to go overboard sometimes; but at the end of it all, she really was supporting me.
- You’ve recently released your second album ‘Taral’. How different is it from your first album ‘Bimbaakash’?
Sometimes, I feel I am getting tired of the music scene and it scares me. People treat independent musicians with diminutive respect, and it is sad. When some people really connect to my music, they give me all their respect. However, I also feel pressurised. This makes me censor myself, and I’ve made some censors in my second album. I noticed I was more wary, more systematic, and more conscious.
- Why did you feel that way?
My first album was so much fun because I wasn’t doing it for anybody but for aamaji, myself and my friends who already knew my songs by heart. There was no standard to live up to. But for ‘Taral’, I kept forgetting my real priorities because people had already assumed me as a star while I was still clumsy. I was even scared to death to release the first few songs.
- How are you feeling now?
I am so much calmer now. The bumping is still the same, but the healing time is better.
- You may have encountered some shortcomings during your musical journey, how do you deal with it?
For once, I stuck to music; but now, I have to deal with it because everyone thinks I’m an award-winning musician. Gratefulness and excitement apart, I cannot afford to practice every day when it is really important. My life is not residential, regardless of for how many times I apply to; I don’t even seem to be selected to be the one.
- What about dealing with problems in the music field?
Everyone in the music scene deals with problems which are many. However, we have so much passion and unreal inspiration in the community. We are all trying to defeat the problems in our ways. As of me, I’ve drawn a circle and I’m trying my best to stay within it. I slip and fall all the time, but I sit down for a while and breathe and stand up and start walking again.
- At the beginning of your music expedition, which musician was the one who created a turning point in your career?
Diwas Gurung. He changed the way I would ever decide to seal my music.
- Besides him, who has supported you in your musical venture?
I am a huge fan of Bipul Chhetri just like you are. You know, an artist is duper lovable when they are humble. When he sent me a message about Bimbaakash, I felt the same.
Avishek KC from ‘Underside’ and ‘The Act’ has always been a super supporter. Besides, Prabal Gurung had shown up with this gang at ‘Deha Ra Aatma’, a concert series that I had organised. He really enjoyed it; it was like fiction for me.
Astha Tamang Maskey shared my music and texted me, and that was super crazy. I’ve tried and failed to sing her song ‘Harek Saas Sita’ many times. Moreover, she has her footprint in the male-dominated music industry. Astha Tamang Maskey has moved me in that way too. So, getting her message was unreal.
- Are there others too?
Yes. Musicians from Albatross are my absolute homeboys; they’ve been mentors to me in so many ways. Bikrant Shrestha (Underside) is the person I’m enthralled by. He had sent me a message about a song, and I was so thankful. Jerusha Rai came to attend one of my shows, and I was almost hyperventilated.
Rajan Shrestha and Rohit Shakya were in my gig, and I was randomly playing. Honestly, I was trembling throughout my entire set.
While Prasit Sthapit and Sunny Tuladhar had shared my music, Shreya Rai hung out with me and let me collaborate with her.
- Who are your favourite songwriters/composers?
I’ve only one poster posted on the wall of my room, and Rachael Yamagata is in it. Besides her, I like Regina Spektor, Cat Power, Sufjan Stevens, and Amy Winehouse.
- Do you have any musical guilty pleasures? Regardless of what this cover-singing battle is in Nepal, I love singing cover songs. I do not post it out as much because I have become more protective of myself. I also listen to my own albums on repeat.
- As a collaborative artist, you’ve collaborated with Diwas Gurung and Jerusha Rai. With whom you want to collaborate now?
Rajan Shrestha, Naseeruddin Shah, Pooja Gurung, AR Rahman, and Shreeti Pradhan. No explanations for this.
- Among all your songs, which is your best one?
I cannot pick one because it is all documentation. One part is incomplete without another, even meaningless; the build-up is the only truth.
- Are there any lines from the songs you’ve written that has special meaning in your life?
Every line that has made it to the documentation has a special meaning in my life. The space knowsm the people involved know, I know. And as you know, when a million people will listen to it and derive a million meanings from it, it will create goosebumps on them.
“WHILE WORKING FOR MY SECOND ALBUM, I WAS FEELING PRESSURISED. THIS MADE ME CENSOR MYSELF, AND I’VE MADE SOME CENSORS IN MY SECOND ALBUM. I NOTICED I WAS MORE WARY, MORE SYSTEMATIC, AND MORE CONSCIOUS. I WAS EVEN SCARED TO DEATH TO RELEASE THE FIRST FEW SONGS.”— BARTIKA EAM RAI