When musician Ishwor Gurung, front man of Namaste band, first raised the idea of an international music concert in Nepal back in 1994, many brushed it off as a crazy undertaking.
But having represented Nepal in various music festivals abroad, Gurung was determined to make it possible. An open-air concert had never been organised before and getting the logistics right was a mammoth task. "But somebody had to start," recalls Gurung, "at that time, we built the stage with our own hands using bamboo." Not only did he organise the first ever Maha Shivaratri World Music Festival, but he got an overwhelming response. The festival took place thereafter every year for 10 years on Shivaratri in various cities in Nepal.
"As we closed the 10th year finale in 2004, I promised the people that we would be back, and here we are," says Gurung. Organised after a gap of five years, this year's festival also marks the 20th anniversary of Namaste Band. The festival will include 20 bands from Nepal, Japan, the US, Canada and Germany. Top Nepali bands like Robin and the New Revolution, Cobweb, Shadows Band and the Axe, among many others, are gearing up for the event.
Almost 30 independent artists will also perform which includes veterans of Nepali music like Deep Shrestha and Om Bikram Bista.
"We call it world music because we're not featuring just one genre or a particular type of music. Folk, rock, jazz, classical, hip hop, fusion-? the bands we have come from diverse backgrounds," explains Gurung, "and when artists come together like this, there is so much one can learn." In the past years, the festival has been a wonderful platform for old musicians and new. Gurung says that he remembers some of the top artists and bands of Nepal today starting out at the festival.
Asked why on Maha Shivaratri, Gurung replies: "Well Shiva himself is an artist. Shivaratri is a celebration of Shiva when people come together in love and peace. That's the message we want to spread with our music."
Mahashivaratri World Music Festival
Tickets: Rs 100
22 February, Fun Park, Exhibition Road, Kathmandu
28 February, Pradarsani Marg, Naya Bajar, Pokhara