Generating sounds of the sarangi, murchunga, djimbe, basuri, tabala, dhime, madal, as well as violin, percussion and guitar, the five people I interview are indeed multi-instrumental, dynamic musicians. They go by the name “Rudra”- an angry incarnation of Lord Shiva and an irony, really, since the band “plays fusion music for peace and harmony”, as vocalist Shyam Nepali points out.
Recently, Rudra came back from a gig in Switzerland, where all proceeds went to an orphanage school called “Mitrata”. They say that music goes beyond being mere entertainment; it has tremendous social, emotional and spiritual value. “People in Nepal generally take music as merely a pass-time,” quips Shyam Nepali, “When, in fact, music is so powerful that it can heal patients, can substitute doctors and can be a source of meditation.”
Coming from a band which has played across Europe and Japan, it is food for thought when they point out that foreign audiences know how to appreciate Rudra’s exotic music better than people in Nepal themselves. Furthermore, they also love collaborating with traditional musicians from abroad, as they have with bands from Japan, France and Egypt - especially because they thrive on the recognition that Nepalese culture gets when they share Nepali music.
Friends for a long time, Shyam Nepali, Raman Maharjan, Babu Raja Maharjan, Bishow Nepal amd Kiran Nepal grew up in musical families and used to jam casually until they formed their band more than 10 years ago. Shyam Nepali’s family has been playing the sarangi for four generations, an instrument used by messengers for official announcements across villages in Nepal. Babu Maharjan, who plays the dhime as the seventh generation in his family, explains that this instrument is especially played by the Jyapus of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur.
Apart from creating music, Rudra aims to preserve and promote Nepali music, also keeping in mind that in a globalized world there is bound to be fusions of musical style and taste. Kiran Nepal comments, “The world has not recognized the richness of Nepali music yet. But if we juxtapose our folk music with music from around the world, I think we can make our mark internationally.”
However, the band also points out that music “fans” have lost some sincerity and a musician can easily get undervalued today: people are, for example, spending more for the stage and décor than the actual musician. As Nepali puts it, “The attention is directed toward anything but the musician - the creator.” Add to that the small music market and scanty government support, being a musician professionally is still tough in Nepal. Nevertheless, Rudra’s excitement abounds: they have an upcoming gig in Switzerland and their first album, “Rudra”, is set to release soon. Here’s wishing them the best.