A brilliant piece on the rockstar’s tour to Nepal.
The attendants of the at Dasarath Rangashala last week expected no more understanding from the cynics among us than what we are already known to be capable of. The performer hasn’t been known to be an active promoter of drugs like many other rockstars are, and I would be surprised if his lyrics would offend anyone reading this piece. He represents a brand of music bordering between pop and rock, that is easy to understand and popular among many youths in Nepal, a country which is said to have “opened up” after the late 80s’, which incidentally happens to be the hey-days of this artist. This is why I failed to understand the rationale behind all the self -righteous comments, blogs and some video commentaries on the internet, describing why they don’t belong to the crowd that flocked Rangashala in almost an uneducated and outdated manner, at a time when the writers had more important things to do and take care of. All such pieces came from young men and women, inside and outside Nepal, and from both sides of the political spectrum.
One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure
The economic realities of Nepal’s middle class didn’t allow most children to attend expensive boarding schools and feel-as-one with the western culture, or even the English language. Most of these families used to, and still do live outside Kathmandu, and believe it or not, even the luckiest of people in some of Nepal’s big cities only got to watch Nepal Television years after it started broadcasting in Kathmandu. FM Radios didn’t happen until a few years ago. While Kathmandu was humming the tunes of Def Leppard and AC/DC, many kids in Nepalgunj, Butawal, Dhankuta and Hetauda were still dancing to Mithun Chakravorty’s “I’m a disco dancer,” and later Michael Jackson’s beats, if at all they were dancing or singing. I think kids in other lesser known cities were dancing to Kumar Basnet’s “geets” or the “madals” and flutes in their own locality.
If I can attend a concert, why can’t my countrymen do that in Nepal?
Few years later, people in mofasal (a nepali word that means: part of the country excluding the capital city) would move on to boybands and pop music, and more often than not, Bryan Adams’ voice would be the one they’d first listen to. The AC/DC generation would move on too. This process continues today also. A majority of the educated ones from other districts come to Kathmandu after their higher secondary school (earlier, they had to come right after the school, but things have improved a bit) and almost a proportionate number of Kathmandu’s youth leave for the West to pursue their dreams. A country of modern nomads, our people continue to migrate from mountains to hills, from villages to towns, from hills to plains, from outside to inside Kathmandu and from Nepal to abroad. All in search for a better and respectable lives for themselves and their children.
I have observed that that most pundits who loathed the Rangashala crowd are the ones who have themselves already attended rock concerts elswehere. You and I can shrug our shoulders for being trendy cosmopolitans, not knowing who Bryan Adams is, but for many in Kathmandu, the city where thousands of students from all over the country come to study, dream and work, he is still something. When Scorpions (another 80-90s band) toured India 2007, I remember my friends lamenting why western rock bands could not come to Nepal when they could go as far as Shillong. Artists like them tour many parts of the world every year, and people pay money to see them everywhere. This one was the first of its kind for Nepal, and people were naturally excited. It should not have been a big deal.
Let’s talk the issues now
It is always refreshing to have diverse arguments and opinions, but they should not come at the cost of deliberate omissions of facts and fallacies of reasoning. I agree that the concert tickets were expensive. There was no connection between the concert and Nepal Tourism Year (some people still confuse it with “Visit Nepal Year”) or development and it was just a propaganda, a rather poor one.
It’s not about a concert
Come to think of it, aren’t the reactions brought out by this one concert the symptoms of our other social diseases? Also, if just one concert could evoke such reactions, doesn’t that speak for itself of the more deep-seated issues?
We are a country discovering itself, in search of a new identity. Yes, we are very much in search of even the most insignificant of things that we think makes us visible around the world. We have an obsessive fascination for foreigners and especially fair-skinned people. We think that the world loves us because we are the best country in the world- with a wonderful history, marvelous landscape and amazing people. Did we already forget how some people were killed in the aftermath of a rumor that some actor down South said something bad about us? We are so much in search of our lost (or yet-to-be discovered) pride and recognition. The things we do in search for attention could be compared to a toddler crying for sweet. At the same time, we are also a very young population, almost half of our people were born after the 80s. We are restless, very ambitious and maybe stupid. But our national issues mostly revolve around boisterous arguments over issues that most people never cared about. While our youth population knows what it wants, they perhaps don’t know how to achieve it. Neither does anybody show them the way.
Why humiliate the youths?
In response to a very long general strike called by a political party last year, thousands of youths spontaneously came out to the streets asking for peace and freedom. Everybody knew there were armed goons in the streets to beat and scare them away, there were strong worded warnings and the civil-society’s leaders were literally peeing in their pants (there were on and off rumors of cancellation of the event). By and large, it was a gathering of educated, young (middle class) people, including those who couldn’t attend it. But another day, some top notch leaders called names and criticized those who attended the protest. Almost at the drop of a hat, there were pieces in big media that said that the gathering went a bit too far, carried the agenda of the regressive forces and was made to appear big by the trickery of camera lenses. Nobody defended the young people and even those who used it for their political mileage said no word about clubbed goons in major streets who were intimidating people.
If one has to criticize the way some newspapers crossed the limits while mixing business-promotion and news, one should remember our newspapers also promote the annual pen-drive sales named CAN Infotech, education-consultants’ events and regular (also insignificant) meetings of political parties in similar ways. I despise the way the event organizers were given media space but how no coverage was given to the disrespect Nepali artists had to face at their hands. But let’s not mix symptoms with causes here – these are topics for a separate debate.
Similarly, the spending habit of our people might be another subject of debate, as can be how quick-riches has become more of a norm than exception in our society. Then there’s also how consumers in Nepal are looted at every step, and there’s no monitoring whatsoever these days. But I also know many self-earning, hard-working young people attend the concert- why let our personal biases come in the way of them trying to have some fun?
If we’re a poor country, there are already plenty of things we do that we perhaps shouldn’t be doing. We have lavish and gold-studded marriage parties in Kathmandu, all the imported goods in our malls and expensive Japanese SUVs that crowd our roads. At a time when our exports have hit rock bottom, we have the most corrupt leaders in history and a lifestyle where we can’t grow our own vegetables. At the same time, we have public commentators who criticize the youths for attending a concert, as if a crime was committed. Let’s not compare apples and oranges- attending a concert of a artist you admire is one thing, and its another thing if the media blew the story out of proportion or if I smell foul in the way the concert is organized and promoted. As goes a popular movie quote, I missed the part where that’s my (concert-goer) problem.
A friend tweeted last week, about the way concert goers were criticized: it is as if we are entitled to live in agony, always talk about poverty, beg for fund and rant about bad politics. Of course, anyone who takes the newspapers too seriously should not forget that some of them sold us a bloody war, many of them sold us a futile revolution and went on to their usual business when things started getting less interesting.
[This article was originally published in Ushaft's blog.]