Aawartan, though not new to the Nepali music scene are the current rising stars. The band has been together for about three years, playing gigs in major pubs and restaurants of Kathmandu valley.
The story of Aawartan is similar to what every other band experiences. They were playing in different bands struggling to get gigs before coming together. Aawartan was formed when Anup Thapa and Aman Shahi met with the former vocalist of the band Ranjit Dahal. According to Aman, Ranjit was the one who came up with the name Aawartan which is derived from eastern classical music. He further explained that in eastern classical music, one bar of music circle is called Aawartan and has a similar meaning to the Nepali word Pariwartan which means change. So, the band wants to change and introduce different genres of music here in Nepal.
For two years, the trio of Anup, Aman and Ranjit were together but soon after, Ranjit left the band. At the time Saugat Rai was with another band playing gigs in Thamel. The remaining duo, Anup and Aman were looking for another band member and asked Saugat to join them, which he instantly did. The trio of Anup, Aman and Saugat have been together for almost three years now playing gigs around the major pubs and restaurants of Kathmandu Valley and also opening up for major Nepali artists.
Their first gig was in a bar called Mona Lisa and the second was in the food court of KL Tower. “At that time, we didn’t have many gigs and after those two gigs we got a chance to play at a café in Baneshwor called Café 32 and another café in Jhamsikhel called Café Rina,” says Anup Shahi. After those initial gigs they got calls from popular and happening pubs and restaurants around Kathmandu like Reef, Red Carpet, Nanglo, Lhasa, H2O, Faces Lounge, Ibyza and Up Stairs in Jochhen. “Amongst these we are still continuing to play in H2O, Reef, Faces Lounge and Up Stairs, Jochhen,” adds Aman as he joins the conversation. Among their most memorable gigs, Saugat remembers the time they got a chance to be the opening band for Raju Lama at Reef. “There was a massive crowd at that gig and we enjoyed a lot playing in front of such a crowd,” says Saugat. They also remember fondly a gig in Chitwan called Rhythm Highway Concert in 2016 which they think is another memorable one.
Aawartan believes that an artiste or musician should not just have one artiste as their idol and one genre as their favorite. The band thinks that although some musicians play only a certain genre of music, they should have respect for all genres. They are flexible with any genre of music, whether it’s Nepali folk music, rock, pop, Bollywood, funk and jazz. When I asked each band member personally, Anup replied that his favorite band from his childhood days has always been AC/DC, Saugat prefers Nepali pop rock genre and is a major fan of Girish and The Chronicles, while Aman being the only guitarist in the band has always preferred playing lead and rhythm taking the name of the great band Metallica as his idols.
The charm factor of Aawartan is that the they make the cover songs they sing their own by improvising. All three band members can sing and each of the members sings music of their own favorite genres which brings diversity to their performances. Apart from singing at major pubs and restaurants in Kathmandu, the band has already taken out their first original ‘Aba Ta Aideuna’, a love song targeting the youth. “The song ‘Aba Ta Aideuna’ was an experimental song that we recorded in a studio. We wanted the experience to see how things work in a studio,” explains Anup. They are still working out on their other songs and look forward to taking out an album soon.
Taling about the music scene in Nepal at the moment, all the band members feel that the life of a musician is very tough right now. “The bands or singers who are young and just got into the music scene are doing it for fun and it’s a temporary phase in their life. There was a time when many concerts were organized and musicians like us used to get a chance to play regularly, but now such concerts have become rare and the craze for good musicians and music seems to have have faded as well right now,” laments Aman. “The competition is so tight because of so many bands emerging to play in pubs and restaurants,” adds Saugat. Anup thinks that established artists and musicians have already become established but cover bands like Aawartan are stuck in the middle. He observes that young bands that are desperate to play at pubs and restaurants are playing gigs for very little money and these eateries being business houses, would obviously hire such bands which cost less. But the band still believes there are some pubs and restaurants out there who understand the need for quality music and encourage bands like Aawartan to produce good music without having to compromise on payment.
"The band still believes there are some pubs and restaurants out there who understand the need for quality music and encourage bands like Aawartan to produce good music without having to compromise on payment."
Aawartan believes that the people and the music industry in Nepal needs to widen up their perception about the importance of music. “Instead of downloading the music or sharing it for free, we recommend people to pay for the music and show some respect for it,” says Anup. “Since YouTube is not a source of income, people can go to the respective channel of the bands and view the song. Aman talks about the other problems that bands face today: “When we are playing gigs, not only Aawartan but other bands also have a playlist according to which they play. But people are constanly requesting songs that are not on our playlist. If we have them on our playlist, we do play those songs, but if not people should understand,” opines Aman. Aawartan feels grateful to audiences, pubs and restaurants who have consistently supported them.