Nepali Times Asian Paints
Politically Cracked
The patriot


Amrit Gurung is his own man, and a quirky one at that. The frontman of the folk-rock band Nepathya is well known among his circle of friends for his daily hour-and-half-long walking commute from his home in Hatiban to work in Kalikasthan, where he spends his days in his basement office perfecting his music. In fact, we were almost unsurprised when he showed up in full hiking gear at a recent photo shoot when he had been specifically requested to wear something formal.

"I'm a little odd," he offered as an apology. In reality, the choice of clothing speaks of his outward-looking relationship with the city he lives in, ready to drop everything, whenever he feels like abandoning its claustrophobic streets to journey through the rest of the country.

The man who seems so ill at ease with fame is a master traveller, using it as an opportunity to collect material for his songs. But, his travels are more than that. He gathers up the stories of the people he talks to, photographing them and their surroundings to add to the stacks of his photographs (he only switched to digital two years ago). He has travelled more widely, talked to more people and taken more pictures than any journalist I know.

Some of these stories inspire his music, while others become a direct part of it. After seeing the picture in the newspapers of a 20-day-old baby girl who had survived lethal crossfire during a bus journey with her mother during the war, Amrit travelled to Mainapokhari where the incident had occurred. The memory of that day became the title track of his album Ghatana, a 25-minute long commentary of the incident and the nation we had become, "terrified of the future ahead of us".

Unlike the cynics among us who see Nepal as a nest of self-obsessed politics, Amrit sees it for what it is, and his subtle activism arises from the great love he has for this country and its people. So much so that when two of his band members disappeared in Japan after a concert, he was so embarrassed that his friends ditched their country that he almost quit music.

With love comes pain and disappointment, and this is visible in his eyes as he talks about his journeys over the last few decades. Before the war, he was welcomed everywhere he went, offered shelter, and fed. During and after the war, villagers became more suspicious and he found himself an unwelcome guest because "Nepalis had stopped trusting each other," he says. "Yesto din pani dekhnu paryo. Never thought I would see a day like that."

In an effort to stem the tide of chaos, he played charity concerts during the war called Shanti Ko Lagi Shikchya (Education for Peace) to help raise funds for school children, and through Sundar Shanta Nepal- Shanti Sangeet Yatra in 2003 he toured the country singing songs of peace and love.

On Tuesday, Amrit released a new album with his band Nepathya called "Aina Jhyal". Nepathya's last two albums digressed from the usual to speak of the malaise in the country, the new album revisits the folk-rock glory of its past hinting towards normalisation.

Art, they say, reflects reality. With so many miles and conversations behind him, perhaps Amrit is the barometer of the mood of the country. As Nepathaya's music steps away from melancholy to something more hopeful, there may yet be some hope for our future, but not unless we take a leaf out of his book and join him on his journey.

All songs available at


A musical journey, KUNDA DIXIT
Amrit's rocky road

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)