Text by Prabin Maharjan
Photo by Arwind Chhetri
Iman Bikram Shah and Garima Gurung need no introduction. While Shah is highly respected as a ‘guitar virtuoso’ in Nepali music industry, he, along with Gurung, had made a mark in the scene around 2009 with the band ‘X-IT’. Now once again, the duo is back, and this time, with a new band ‘Mental Radio’ and its debut self-titled album.
“We were always involved in music one way or the other,” replies Shah, responding to the people’s thinking that the duo have taken time to come back.
Years earlier, the duo started to cover contemporary hits of the 60s, and by the time they met other musicians suitable for the band, they already had three songs composed and recorded.
“Working as the Principal at Nepal Music Centre, I stumbled upon these amazing young musicians who were somehow associated with the music school,” says Shah
“We were accustomed to their talent and invited them to join the band. We are lucky to have them in the band.”
As soon as the band was formed as a pop rock group, they started working on originals. Versatility in musical geniuses among the musicians influenced the songs towards positive direction. “We scraped the recorded songs, and worked with the band to re-record them,” tells Garima Gurung, vocalist of the band.
As for most of the band members, the story behind obtaining the band’s name is quite amazing.
Few days before naming the band, the band read ‘Mental Radio’ carved on a generator, and immediately concluded it to be perfect name for the band. They further conducted research, and ended up finding a book named ‘Mental Radio’. They drew inspiration from the findings suggested by the author Upton Sinclare, and since hen, they stayed determined to mitigate mental health issues of the country.
“While it’s true that seeking help for mental problems is not yet common in Nepal, and most people with mental disorders are widely victimized with despise, we should be talking more about the issues,” reasons Gurung, adding, “People cannot stay fit when their minds are not fit.”
Being adamant on the determination, the band is contributing the album’s proceedings and royalty to Godavari Alumni Association, in its initiative to address mental health issues, in collaboration with Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH).
When asked to describe the type of their genre and their songs, Gurung explains, “While creating a song, following a genre is our least priority. Lyrics do not widely speak about love but sounds so, and we just let them be that way,” adding, “We believe this is artistic freedom.”
She elaborates, “The song ‘Nasodha Malai’ wasn’t composed as a love song but the music video depicted ‘love’ because the band respected the director’s idea. Similarly, ‘Hallai Halla’ is a very fun song that concerns how people talk about somebody else without knowing their true nature.”
Besides the content of the album, the respect to equality among the band is praiseworthy.
First, band creates music, riffs, structures and frameworks, followed by the composition of melody lines by the vocalist. When writing of the lyrics gets completed, the band jams to bring out the output.
“In music, there is nothing like any differences, and I believe in the strength of maintaining equal wavelength among the band members when it comes to creation,” opines Shah, “New members are bringing new energy, and their varied influences and inspirations, which help in defining our music in a better way.”
‘Mental Radio’ has a number of gigs lined up, in and outside the capital city, not only for album promotion but also for undertaking advocacy to evoke people and concerned authorities to act against mental health issues.
Iman Bikram Shah – Guitars
Garima Gurung – Vocals
Nischal Gurung – Guitars and vocals
Ashim Tamang – Bass
Sanjog Pradhan – Drums