We sit down with Shirish Dali of Albatross as he chronicles the journey so far, where they are headed and what it takes for a band to make it.
There is not much one can say about Albatross that hasn’t already been said; they have been a staple in the Nepali Music Scene for close to 15 years now and while many a rock outfit had come and gone, they have kept their act buzzing all this time. Their songs have become legendary and are sung in Thamel and Jhamsikhel even when the band is nowhere to be found. Such is their impact on the scene. As Albatross winds up their last leg of gigs before vocalist Shirish Dali heads for the U.S, we sit down with the man himself as he delves into their past, present and future to find out what it was/is that led them to where they are today.
To be honest, I don’t think there is a real recipe to success. There isn’t a 12 step program that says ‘if the band does this, this, this, it will be successful’. Life would be so much easier for all of us if we did have that but we don’t. It’s a combination of many things that brought us here. We lucked out that some of our early songs just connected with the audience so deeply that it etched our name in their minds. From there though we persevered and kept working hard. At this point I can tell you honestly that it is all about playing; just go out and play and play to a live audience and try all the platforms you can.
Their latest album ‘Ma Ra Malai’ prompted them to do, as mentioned, play and play. While the album’s launch was already garnering enough attention through online media and hearsay, the band embarked on a truly phenomenal tour to support the album as well. First came the local scene with places like Abu Khaireni, Hetauda, Pokhara all receiving their share of Albatross.
The turnout and reception was amazing and we felt so loved. These guys mean a lot to us and how much they have supported our music over the years.
After the conclusion of their Nepal Leg of the ‘Ma Ra Malai’, the band headed to Australia and played a slew of shows to their adoring fans down under. Their shows, album sales were off the charts as the band’s stock grew a further more in the past 18 months’ rigorous touring.
It is perhaps this dedication and that innate connection with the listeners that has made them arguably the most successful and self-sustained band in Nepal. They have broken stereotypes of how someone can survive with a career based in music.
Making a living off music isn’t just performing live, it is about music entrepreneurship, owning a music store or a studio, something that further incorporates music in their economic structure. For long our society has categorized music as an ‘unsustainable source of income’, that’s not true because there are bands who have done very well for themselves by not only making music, but furthering music as well.
Upon their return to the country, the songs of ‘Ma Ra Malai had already taken a life of their own. They had become so popular the album was awarded the Hits Fm Music Awards. The album spoke volumes for the situation in our country. The unbridled fury in ‘Gari Khana Deu’ and ‘Gari Khana Deu II’ embodied what the whole nation was saying. I have been to their concerts where the whole audience would sing along from ‘ Je Sukai Gar…(the main chorus line in ‘ Gari Khana Deu’. That has been the mark of this album; songs that proclaim angst but packaged neatly in the middle of all that rage reside a few songs that bring back the Albatross of old. Their songs like ‘Afnai Sansar Ma Kina’, ‘Sagar’ ‘ Bhool’ all have that emotion and attachment that one feels right from the first listen. If one has to figure out why Albatross made it, a big part are songs like these that are so well composed musically with lyrics that etch themselves in the heart of the listener. And then you have a song like ‘Manav Nai Danav’ that is a heavy riffed masterpiece still waiting for its due accolade. That one is the soundtrack to the devil riding out of hell!
Next was the tour of London that they had at the tail end of 2014. The videos that surfaced from the shows have gone on to stand as testaments of the band’s success. The production quality of the concerts as well as the turnout all have vindicated the band’s efforts and their desire to keep on touring with their latest body of music. And to think that all this was achieved without a single music video.
We wanted to keep the focus on the music. Don’t get me wrong, a good music video does take the music and its popularity in today’s world a step further but we wanted to keep the focus on the songs of the album. That is why we only made a live performance video for ‘Sagar’. That’s it; that’s the only video we have and still the album did so well. So I think it was a good decision on our part to keep the spotlight on the songs.
So all this leads us to what next? With Dali taking off and Albatross going dormant for a while, it looks like there won’t be music for a while from the quartet. Well, not quite; here is Shirish Dali to take us home with a bout of excitement:
There is a festival we are taking very seriously called the South By South West Festival that happen annually in the U.S. It is the largest festival of its kind with some 2000 musical acts featuring every year. It goes on for some 10 odd days and encompasses a film as well as Interactive Festival along with the music fest. We are going through the processing so as to perform at this stage and it will be huge for us if we can. The global outreach of such a festival is the next level for us and we are going through the channels to find out how to get there.
Another important aspects is that we are also looking to a U.S tour for ‘Ma Ra Malai’. Our shows in the past there have generated a good buzz and been very encouraging so just because I am there doesn’t mean we are going to stop (laughs). For us, it is simple; keep performing, keep playing, keep working. Put in everything from your side and be genuine. Make genuine music because the people pick up on it and they know what is real and what isn’t. As long as you make music that is true to yourself and to the band’s credo, there will be satisfaction. Success might just come with it, but being honest to yourself and the music listening community is very important. Maybe after everything we just talked about, that is the main ingredient in the recipe for success.