Archive for the ‘inspirations and aspirations’ Category
This past year was great for Nepali music, both in terms of the number of quality songs/albums released and the many creative accompanying music videos that were released. What follows is a short list of the singles that I’ve enjoyed over the year, songs I’ve listened to countless times for various reasons, none the same. It is by no means an exhaustive list of the ‘best tracks’. I am no musician, just some guy who likes to listen. I have my biases, given how many of these musicians I know personally, so these are my favorite tracks, in no particular order.
What can be said of this song that it doesn’t say on its own. This is a track I listened to a lot, often while in a kuna of a sajha bus, staring aimlessly at the world passing by. The guitars and driving drums take a backseat to Bartika Rai’s soaring vocals, sung with abandon. Its a finely crafted song, the parts all strung together to showcase one thing – Bartika’s songcraft. In the melody, she is unexpected, enjambments abound and her vocals lift and fall when you least expect them to, all pleasant surprises. In the accompanying video by Sworup Ranjit, Bartika sits off-center, facing off to the left, glancing occasionally at the camera. During the final act, when she swivels and faces the camera directly to repeat the first stanza, it is striking. You are caught in her gaze, as she sings directly at you. Not to you, for this is not a paean, it is an entreaty – save yourself while you still can.
Kapase Badal builds slowly, layering sound over sound, melody over melody, its steady rhythm hypnotic, the clap-beat almost like a metronome. It begins to crescendo and just when it seems to crest, it pulls back, like a breath inhaled. All the while accompanied by the most beautifully natural of melodies, a bird song. When the other instruments take their exit, when Ashesh Rai’s delicate vocals depart, all that is left is the bird song, echoing against the lingering aural screen of raindrops. Kapase Badal, like its name, is the stuff of clouds, a soft, soothing, song best listened to on headphones while watching the world go by.
Jerusha Rai’s voice is a breezy whisper. What she sings is confidential, spoken into your ear, dark things, secret things. This song juxtaposes Jerusha’s breathy vocals with a jarring ‘say, say’ refrain that almost ruins it. But on repeated listens, the chorus belies the darkness in the song. Taken from the album ‘A Dark Place to Think’, Sirens is brooding and introspective. Jerusha is more poet than singer, more whisperer than crooner. Sirens reminds of the times you lay in your bed in the black, staring up at nothing, willing a sleep that never seems to come, only dank thoughts that arrive like pacing cats mewling on a nighttime fence.
I’d first come across a woefully short ditty by Pahenlo Batti Muni on Soundcloud that was sweet and beautiful, a pleasant earworm that warranted constant replay. Their first single is in the same vein, simple in its instrumentation and arrangement, soulful in its vocals. Rochak Dahal’s voice is angelic, as if he is once again singing a lullaby. It cajoles and draws you in, all warm and inviting. It is not one-of-a-kind but it is a good thing and contrary to folk wisdom, you can never have too much of a good thing.
I have written about Rajan Shrestha’s (phatcowlee) Achal before: “a song of stillness, a perfect amalgam of form and content. Minimal and moody, it does not rise and fall, it does not soar and dip. It does not stir. It is still. And in that stillness, there is a profundity unbecoming of something so simple… Rajan’s stillness is generative; it produces quiet in the mind. It coaxes you to close your eyes and surrender yourself, like the best kind of meditation.” All of this remains true. As the days get shorter and colder, the stillness of Achal becomes a necessity, one essential piece of a winter puzzle that includes warmth, love and idleness. With the body still, let the mind wander.
There is something otherworldly about Shreeti’s voice. It seems to take wing effortlessly, rising above the noise like a siren, and then, lilting, folding into itself, like a wave. It is a real singer’s voice. Baaja’s instrumentation is a perfect foil to Shreeti’s voice, as I discovered to my pleasant surprise in a song tucked away on Youtube, a set from her composition for Dhon Cholecha. That short tune is magical, her voice echoing in the empty chambers of the hall they’re performing in. That aside, Gondhuli is a gem of a track, each part complementing the other. Released as part of a Yomari Session (a Nepali version of the Take Away Shows by Katha Haru), this track showcases just how comfortably two very talented sets can intersect.
From that rolling bass to those teasing guitars, Anautho Mann is a good time. Playful and energetic, its a track that makes you want to sing along with its catchy-as-hell refrain. The song recalls many others, as influences and inspirations, but that only seems to add to its infectious groove. Propelled by Brihat Pahari’s vocal urgency and Nishan Siddhi’s guitar energy, Anautho Mann is a track that keeps you afloat and at ease. (Salil Thakuri is sorely missed!)
Ankit Adhikari and Prabisha Adhikari rework Coke Studio’s reworking of the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan track. Coke Studio’s reinterpretation, with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Momina Mustehsan, is arresting. Rahat, after all, is the heir to uncle Nusrat’s legacy. In Ankit and Prabisha’s cover, there are hints of the originals, both the Nusrat and Rahat versions. You keep expecting one of the singers to burst into a qawwali but the track refrains. In not rising to meet expectations, the cover keeps itself original.
This track is not from this year. In fact, it was released in 2014 but I’m including it here since the video for Reflection was released earlier this year. Haami is a band from the UK and boy are they fun to listen to. I have been listening to their EP regularly for the past year and it has yet to grow old. Although Reflection is not my favorite track off the EP (that would be Stars), it is an apt introduction. There are echoes of the band Toe in their music but that is a compliment. For someone who finds most post and prog rock boring and repititive, Haami’s songs are a deviation. There are flourishes – a slight tweaking of the guitar, a shift in pace, a vocal introduction, an unexpectedly sweet melody – that keep the songs from becoming boring. I imagine they sound great live.
This isn’t a great song. Kamero were fairly entertaining as a Tool cover band but their original leaves a lot to be desired. The lyrics are a hodge-podge of various metal cliches and the derivative composition just recalls other, better bands. The less said about the song and album titles, the better. What this song and its accompanying video do effectively is create a mood, deeply unsettling and bizarre, reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails project. While there is little sense to be made of the video, it is a bewitching visual spectacle realized very effectively by Jazz Productions. This track is best listened to with the video, each making the other half better.
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –
From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –
Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies –
[juxtaposition by she who makes sing, the spaces in between]
there are spaces in between the disjointed and the disconnected and it is these spaces that give shape and contour to what is defined and angular. the without that defines the within. From in between bamboo stalk bars, words, बिदेशी, peer out like eyes above a fence, looking in or looking out. what is it about the petals of a flower, that when dissected, seem to create a pattern that was never there. moments that are fragmentary often do not add up to a larger picture, sometimes they remain just what they are: fragments. but patterns emerge, not of a unified whole, but of a series of ideas that shape understanding. like a sunflower sun that gazes down on the dissonant, like a childhood picture of happiness sliced in half.
is it enough to say this is beautiful? is it ever enough to say you are beautiful? beauty is an order, an assimilation of the disparate into an aesthetic whole. it is more profound to leave the fragments unjoined, separated like twins at birth. there is a different beauty in the spaces between what is said and what is left unsaid.
come, tear me apart, break me open. i shall never want to be whole again.
something else. In such a way do the days pass—
a blend of stock car racing and the never
ending building of a gothic cathedral.
Through the windows of my speeding car, I see
all that I love falling away: books unread,
jokes untold, landscapes unvisited. And why?
What treasure do I expect in my future?
Rather it is the confusion of childhood
loping behind me, the chaos in the mind,
the failure chipping away at each success.
Glancing over my shoulder I see its shape
and so move forward, as someone in the woods
at night might hear the sound of approaching feet
and stop to listen; then, instead of silence
he hears some creature trying to be silent.
What else can he do but run? Rushing blindly
down the path, stumbling, struck in the face by sticks;
the other ever closer, yet not really
hurrying or out of breath, teasing its kill.
by Samuel Beckett
Bright at last close of a dark day the sun shines out at last and goes down. Sitting quite still at valley window normally turn head now and see it the sun low in the southwest sinking. Even get up certain moods and go stand by western window quite still watching it sink and then the afterglow. Always quite still some reason some time past this hour at open window facing south in small upright wicker chair with armrests. Eyes stare out unseeing till first movement some time past close though unseeing still while still light. Quite still again then all quite quiet apparently till eyes open again while still light though less. Normally turn head now ninety degrees to watch sun which if already gone then fading afterglow. Even get up certain moods and go stand by western window till quite dark and even some evenings some reason long after. Eyes then open again while still light and close again in what if not quite a single movement almost. Quite still again then at open window facing south over the valley in this wicker chair though actually close inspection not still at all but trembling all over. Close inspection namely detail by detail all over to add up finally to this whole not still at all but trembling all over. But casually in this failing light impression dead still even the hands clearly trembling and the breast faint rise and fall. Legs side by side broken right angles at the knees as in that old statue some old god twanged at sunrise and again at sunset. Trunk likewise dead plumb right up to top of skull seen from behind including nape clear of chairback. Arms likewise broken right angles at the elbows forearms along armrests just right length forearms and rests for hands clenched lightly to rest on ends. So quite still again then all quite quiet apparently eyes closed which to anticipate when they open again if they do in time then dark or some degree of starlight or moonlight or both. Normally watch night fall however long from this narrow chair or standing by western window quite still either case. Quite still namely staring at some one thing alone such as tree or bush a detail alone if near if far the whole if far enough till it goes. Or by eastern window certain moods staring at some point on the hillside such as that beech in whose shade once quite still till it goes. Chair some reason always same place same position facing south as though clamped down whereas in reality no lighter no more movable imaginable. Or anywhere any ope staring out at nothing just failing light quite still till quite dark though of course no such thing just less light still when less did not seem possible. Quite still then all this time eyes open when discovered then closed then open and closed again no other movement any kind though of course not still at all when suddenly or so it looks this movement impossible to follow let alone describe. The right hand slowly opening leaves the armrest taking with it the whole forearm complete with elbow and slowly rises opening further as it goes and turning a little deasil till midway to the head it hesitates and hangs half open trembling in mid air. Hangs there as if half inclined to return that is sink back slowly closing as it goes and turning the other way till as and where it began clenched lightly on end of rest. Here because of what comes now not midway to the head but almost there before it hesitates and hangs there trembling as if half inclined etc. Half no but on the verge when in its turn the head moves from its place forward and down among the ready fingers where no sooner received and held it weighs on down till elbow meeting armrest brings this last movement to an end and all still once more. Here back a little way to that suspense before head to rescue as if hand’s need the greater and on down in what if not quite a single movement almost till elbow against rest. All quite still again then head in hand namely thumb on outer edge of right socket index ditto left and middle on left cheekbone plus as the hours pass lesser contacts each more or less now more now less with the faint stirrings of the various parts as night wears on. As if even in the dark eyes closed not enough and perhaps even more than ever necessary against that no such thing the further shelter of the hand. Leave it all so quite still or try listening to the sounds all quite still head in hand listening for a sound.
From Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn:
“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.
Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women”.”