Nepali punk rock
Nepal’s music scene has never stagnated. It is constantly evolving, embracing aspects of other cultures like jazz, rock and roll, R & B, and even rap with great gusto. I’m not going to say that the outcome has been anything even remotely good, for it hasn’t. Nepali music has over the years devolved from amazing prolific entertainment to cheap fodder for the masses. Gone are the days of Narayan Gopal, Aruna Lama, Deep Shrestha and Arun Thapa. Now remixes flourish. Recently imported from across the border, Nepalis have embraced the remix with the greedy lasciviousness of a voyeur peeking through multiple keyholes. These remixes are shameful, they add nothing to the music except for a bass-thump (usually of very poor quality and creative standard) and a video of semi-clothed women gyrating around. I shudder even to think of it.
But there are musicians who’re making their own brand of music with aplomb. Bands like Nepathya, 1974AD, Kutumba need to be congratulated, if not for their creativity, then at least for their effort. They’ve tried to cultivate a sound without making compromises (more the other two than 1974AD, I have issues with their style). But this posting is not about them. It is about a lesser known band, a band that has been quietly making music for over a decade without any attention from the media. They play their punk music with wrath, with passion, and with wit. There is energy at their shows, a celebration of what it means to be making music.
Over the years, Rai ko Ris has churned out album after album of politically-infused punk rock. Their lyrics deal with alienation, the war, land mines, and conscription in the foreign army. Sareena Rai, singer and bassist is the heart and soul of the band. Along with her partner and drummer Olivier, the two have remained the essence of Rai ko Ris, a jubilant celebration of the freedom of speech, to be able to sing, shout and scream about issues that touch them. Their lifestyle is simple and spare, much like their music. They’re DIY punks who used to run a music shop and teach music.
I was first introduced to Rai ko Ris through a friend of mine. She played in a Rai ko Ris side-project, a bubblegum punk band called Tank Girl. At that time, they ran the Infoshop, a place to hang out, listen to music and purchase music that was rare for Nepal. They boasted a huge collection of punk from all over the world, but it wasn’t just limited to punk, there were all kinds. Of course, most of the people at the store, I didn’t identify with. I was never an anarchist or much for the punk ethos. But their DIY lifestyle appealed to me. Although I recognised that I myself would never be able to embrace such a life, their determination and dedication to their ideals impressed me. But it was their music that got to me.
Infused with jangly guitars, fast staccato drumming from Olivier and Sareena didi’s clear bass and sharp vocals, their songs came together perfectly. Never had I heard such Nepali music before. It was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was sometimes silly, sometimes serious but always, it was full of energy and life. If ever you want to listen to good Nepali punk, the kind that the west so proudly boasts, give Rai ko Ris a shot. I guarantee there will be no disappointments. They define Nepali punk.
For a sampling, here’s Lahurey ko Chori: download.