Struggling to succeed
“In 2002, I was approached by the founding members of The Shadows to join the band as it was apparent that the former member Basanta had parted ways with them to start his own solo career in music,” Swapnil recalls. At that time, he was about to complete his higher secondary studies. Although Sharma was a bit acquainted with the music of western rock bands such as Aerosmith and Rage Against the Machine, his vocal inspirations were also derived from the legendary Narayan Gopal and singer Nabin K. Bhattarai to some extent. “We had a tough time back then to be able to listen to various forms of music as one had to borrow or copy from their peers in audiotapes,” he reflects. After several jam up sessions with the band, he felt like working with them as brothers in arms.
His memory of those days then involves the need of the youth of those days to come to the capital city Kathmandu for further development of their endeavors, especially in music. “At this stage, we had little economic support though we could at times convince some of our patrons to sponsor our efforts with a promise to pay them back once we could sell our records and earn through stage shows,” Swapnil explains. As the band members made their way to BMI studio-run by guitarist and audio engineer Iman Bikram Shah, there was no stopping the audience from listening to their super hit songs such as ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Hidne Manche Ladcha’ later, although the previous album of the band was successful enough to give them recognition amongst the locals with the song ‘Jeth 19, 9:15’.
Already vexed with the problem of managing the band’s finances, the band members and their manager Rupesh Sen were faced with a situation where they had to convince record labels to take them on among other musicians who catered to popular demands of such companies that wanted bands to come up with love songs and music videos that featured good looking as well as fashionable models. “At this time, we had to console all of our stakeholders to wait for a while to get their investment back,” Sharma recalls. It was only when the owner of Samjhana Audio Video (record label) decided to cut a deal with the band after he saw their performance at a concert in Jawalakhel did the band get a legitimate chance to put out their songs to the wider audience. “We sold our album for thirty thousand rupees,” he adds.
Success happened in 2004 – two years after they had finalized a deal for their first album titled ‘Suna Haamro Aawaaz’. This second record of theirs was titled ‘Hidne Manche Ladcha’. Had this not happened to us, we would have had to resort to returning home to Chitwan and carry on with our daily chores,” Sharma explains.
Shortly after this date, the members of the band parted ways as founding members Amit Pradhan (bass) and Prakash Rasailey (lead guitars) left for Australia for further studies. But this did not stop them from making singles time and time again as one can find several songs of the band on YouTube that were recorded and produced after the release of their second record. These songs include their hits such as ‘Paap’, ‘Kheladi’ along with ‘Sayad’-a single that was recorded as a theme song for a movie with the same title. In 2014, they came up with a new EP.
When asked about the evolving nature of the band’s music, Swapnil explains, “Previously, it was much more composition oriented whereas now we mostly focus on the technical aspects of the sound outputs.” Likewise, the way that their family and stakeholders perceive their efforts in music is far more relaxed these days compared to their days of struggle. This led me to another understanding of how the band has lived up to everyone’s expectations – including their fans – in recent years as they are entitled with two music tours to Australia and about a handful of performances in different venues and gigs in India, not to mention their extravagant appearances in several concerts inside the nation.
“One such local tour of the band was its performance at the Tuborg ‘Let’s Get Loud’series in 2013. “Previously, Tuborg had thought of allowing us to play only in Nepalgunj, Chitwan and Butwal but eventually they were so impressed with our music’s connection with the crowd that they decided that we should play in all the allocated venues that included Pokhara and Kathmandu,” he says. Due to a fixture of other major gigs such as Nepal Music Festival and another one at Dharan itself, the band could not appear in front of their fans who had turned up to see the band at Tuborg’s event in this city. Shortly afterwards, they learned that that their followers were disappointed with their absence on that day, despite its members being one of the youngest musicians who were featured in the tour.
Their latest songs include ‘Buddha Nepalko’, ‘Maunbrata’ and ‘Aath Din’. Two of the latter songs werr featured in music videos along with another of their hits titled ‘Naya Nepal’. The band operates with session musicians during local gigs at times with Swapnil and Prashant Bishwakarma (Rhythm guitar) when any of the two members (i.e. Amit and Prakash) can’t make it from abroad for such shows. With a huge following of Nepali fans from all over the world, the band has a tendency to deliver new hard rock songs at times – the type of music their fans love them for.
Fourteen years after joining forces with The Shadows, Swapnil is now an entrepreneur whose investments have benefitted both his shareholders and the local music scene. Back then he was just seventeen. “Right after I completed my MBA, I started working for an American based company but always felt that I needed to start something on my own,” says Sharma. This notion of his came to life later on when he met his partner Ashok Sen with whom he opened Purple Haze- a rock bar that many Kathmanduites and musicians look up to today when it comes to having a good time. In fact, many have dubbed it as one of the most happening places inside the capital. As of now, the rock bar is running on its fourth year since opening. Swapnil is also the director of this rock bar (company).
His story with Haze is also that of another struggle-one that probably coincides with the history of other investors like him who have been a part of the local music scene. As Sharma puts it, “We thought of creating a reliable staged venue for those inspiring musicians whom we saw performing at several concerts back then.” True to its cause, the venue has seen musicians and organizers thrive presenting audiences with remarkable solo gigs, tribute concerts and the performances of local and international celebrities like Bumblefoot (recently).
Despite a history of struggling and bad experiences with organizers, locals and the authorities, Sharma shows no signs of slowing down in his creative endeavors- be it performing alongside The Shadows, making new records and music videos with his band, organizing exclusive events at Purple Haze, running his own educational consultancy (EduQuest Nepal), working as a composer for big screen movies, writing new songs and dreaming to open up a college of his own in the near future.