Bryan Adams in Kathmandu: What Does That Mean to Nepal

[This article first appeared on Sunday’s (feb 20) Kathmandu Post. Bryan Adams performed in Kathmandu’s Dasharath Stadium on Saturday.]

Bryan Adams in Kathmandu Nepal
Brinda Singh, who went on stage from the crowd, clings to Bryan Adams after singing “when you are gone” with the star

By Dinesh Wagle
Pic by Narendra Shrestha

KATHMANDU: Were things better here, Bryan Adams’ arrival wouldn’t be such a big deal.

Over the past two decades or so Nepali society has opened up to the outside world—especially Western culture and values—like never before. More people are going abroad. English language schools have proliferated. The reach of radio and TV has widened. Credit for this change should be given to the open economic policy adopted by the first government of Girija Prasad Koirala after the restoration of democracy in 1990.

But the arrival of Bryan Adams became a big deal because we are in a far from ideal situation.

The signs of progress that we saw in the middle of the 90s quickly disappeared into the smoke coming from the violent Maoist-police clashes. The economy stopped growing as politics failed to deliver the basic expectations of the people and the business community. Bloody conflict ended without concrete relief.

bryan adams in nepal Kathmandu Post 20 feb 2011

As a result of these and other issues, it seems society has hit rock bottom. People no longer hesitate to put aside morality for the smallest of things. Opportunities are so rare that the slimmest chance to earn money creates intense rivalry and conflict. We’ve all seen dogs on the street fight over a small piece of bone, haven’t we?

This past week I got to see the preparations made by the organisers of the Bryan Adams concert in Kathmandu up close. They wouldn’t tell me the exact figure of the deal that had several groups, including an Indian team that was responsible for setting up a stage and managing the sound system at the venue. But the red tape that they had to go through and the hassles they faced to make that event happen were clear to see. Every concerned authority, from police officers to the sports officials who rented Dasharath stadium for the gig, wanted their share of the profits. And there were countless demands for free passes. Those in powerful positions, including senior police officers, wanted the most expensive tickets free for them and their families. Others only demanded free access to the cheapest seats. “There are so many people who are envious that we are bringing Bryan Adams,” a person associated with one of the organising groups told me last week. “Everyone wants to pull our leg. There are obstacles at every step.”

 

It’s not surprising that earning money is one of the most difficult feats in a society that is one of the world’s poorest. But everything has a limit. We seem to have crossed this line.

The chief and a member of the sports council reportedly each asked for separate kickbacks. The chief denied asking for a bribe, while the member in question said he wanted money for ‘sports’. Organisers denied bribing officials, but it was hard to believe that they didn’t. Agitating employees, who were waging a separate war of sorts with the management, locked the stadium gates. They unlocked the gates only after securing volunteering opportunities during the concert. Simant Gurung, one of the organisers, hinted to me that the organisers unofficially promised to voluntarily donate some money to the agitating employees’ group. By the time of the settlement, some damage had already been done. Vandals had burned the closed-circuit television cables put in place at the stadium complex.

And there were friendly expectations. Friends of organisers wanted photo opportunities with the singer. Some wanted to see Bryan at their restaurants in Thamel and Durbar Marg. “That bhai at Tamas (restaurant) asked if I could take Bryan to his restaurant and make the singer sing just one song,” Simant said last week. “Another bhai from Lakhe had the same request. I would love to bring the singer to my own restaurant (Simol, Durbar Marg) and make him sing a few numbers if that was possible!”

The exposure to Western ideas and values that I mentioned at the beginning of this article, is mostly limited to television screens. A few hundred thousand Nepalis may have directly experienced Western societies by visiting and living in them. But celebrated personalities from the West don’t come to us that often.

The reason, again, is our poverty. We can’t afford to buy the expensive tickets for their programmes. We don’t have the money for their authentic CDs and DVDs. We can’t spend money on the merchandise that they hope to sell during their tours. This is the reason many Western celebrities who come to India (which is becoming a lucrative market) don’t step foot in Nepal. We are not important enough for them to come because we are not rich enough. Of course, there are those Nepalis who are rich enough to attend every such concert and buy every merchandising item on sale. There are many others who know Western songs by heart and idolise Western celebrities. But those numbers are not high enough to gain the attention of mainstream Western celebrities. That is why people like Nilesh Joshi, a guitarist with Nepali rock band Cobweb, feel bad every time Western celebrities tour India but skip Nepal.

Here enters Bryan, into this gloomy scenario.

With his arrival, many of us may feel that our existence has been recognised. Many of us may feel that we have finally been accepted into that advanced world we aspire to be a part of. Bryan may have instilled some amount of self confidence in us. But all this, I must clarify, may only be felt by those who know about Bryan and are familiar with his music. For those who don’t know the singer, like the spokesperson of Kathmandu valley police who thought Shree Bryan Adams was a “British national” and a “band but not a person” all these things may not matter much.

[The article in print version introduced Nilesh Joshi as singer of the band Cobweb. He is not. He plays bass guitar for the band.]

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10 thoughts on “Bryan Adams in Kathmandu: What Does That Mean to Nepal”

  1. I acknowledge that many of people enjoyed the Bryan Adams in concert. After all it was history in making: an international performer for the first time in Nepal. But reading about such greed and so much money that exchanged hands, it gets you thinking whether not it was even worth the haggle. I’m sure Bryan was elated to have such an enthusiastic crowd but perhaps after reading about the dirty politics to host him, Adams and stars of his stature will think twice about entertaining the Nepali elites.

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/south-asia/Scam-whisper-over-Bryan-Adams-concert-in-Kathmandu/articleshow/7508626.cms

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  2. It’s a Nepali when leaves own country and lives in other’s for some months, forgets own language and starts twisting own tongue to speak Nepali. It’a not bad when Bryan comes to Kathmandu for a function but at the same time do we respect and love our own singers in the same way? Do you ever listen a Nepali song? If you do it’s ok, but if you do not, then are you a Nepali?
    I do not say we have to hate weatern music, but love your own cultures. The world knows us as Nepalis leaving in the foothills of Himalayas. We may be economically poor but we are rich in hearts and cultures. Preserve it, do not be happy in other’s cultues but be happy with your own. If a Nepali is dying he/she will say pani and not water. You all have enjoyed Bryan’s concert whole heartedly, it’s good but do not forget ours.

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  3. It is absurd that the blogger giving credit to Giriza Koirala. In fact mojority of the concertgoers do not believe it. The fact is, Nepalese already started listening Bryan Adams and Western music well before so called democracy of Giriza. I started listening to him in mid 80’s. There were no restriction in listening to western musing and learning English then. Giriza can be given credit for forcing people to go abroad because of his misgovernance , corruption and party-centric politics and make people like Bryan Adams concertgoers frustrated to their own country and abandon the country which led more connection to the rest of the world. These politicians have nothing to do with this concert. Please , do not misled people. People are well aware of what is going on.

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  4. mr om, i/we know measuring index of the economy but why do u say u r yourself poor? thus the most DAS mentality, poor mentalioty. u/we nepali r not reach in heart… how do u measure of the richness of heart??? dod u forget of pashupati scandal…. cultures can be of multi- diversed but cant be rich or poor untill u/we have a system of controlling the politiocal hounds thgat they r making the worst cuture………if u think as a blobal phenomenon, ofcouirse we giot to do our for survival, but global concept that is with u seems scanty….

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  5. Mr. kumar..I could not figure out what u r trying to say to Mr. Om but.i really appreciate and agree with Mr . Om’s view about nepalese being rich in heart and culture . And also there is nothing wrong with acknowledging the fact that we are economically poor . Until and unless we accept our weakness whole heartedly and try to mitigate it, we will never be able to progrss. Just acting like nothing is wrong dosnt make everything right.
    I also do not deny the fact that some nepalese heart has been polluted by the sense of monetary benefit and so on . But i truly, at the same time, believe that nepalese are known for their rich heart and culture and we should remain thus forever..

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  6. Mr. Kumar, Why do you want to hide yourself when others are seeing you? Better realised yourself, who you are and what is your situation, then only you can succeed. What is wrong in saying ‘we are poor economically’? It’s the fact, but you can be economically rich once you understand your causes of poorness and fight against them.
    This situation in Nepal is due to your political leaders. They take Nepal as a CASINO and these corrupted leaders are the winners. But what I say is you(Nepalis People) must be the winners. These so called leaders are DEVASTATING Nepal and Nepalis’ Cultures. So wake up and fight for Nepal and not for political party and its leaders.

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