Outspoken 6'5" Robin Tamang of the cult rock band Robin \'n Looza sees no contradiction in his many avatars: mechanical engineer-turned-psychologist-turned-nightclub owner-turned-NGO worker-turned-activist- and today a rock star. Says the singer-songwriter "Music is how I convey my message, especially to the youth of Nepal." And messages he has aplenty.
The band's first album Nepal, the title track in particular, created a sensation when released about two years ago. As much as the band's hard rock sound hit the spot, it was the in your face lyrics that really had them hooked. The lyrics, which compared Nepal to a rose-thorns and all-made everyone pause, scratch their head, nod and sing along in agreement. It seemed that someone was finally voicing the frustration of the Nepali youth. Hearing Robin speak, you get a sense of why he is something of a prophet to so many young Nepalis. "You just can't escape it," he says, "Nepal is supposedly riding this wave of so-called democracy but where is it? All Nepalis need access to the basics that at least allows them to think for themselves, that includes free, compulsory education for everyone until a certain age. As for the challenges well, the whole social system is loaded against the Nepali youth."
Robin's first moves on returning to Nepal in 1996 after 17 years in Canada and nearly as many in other places with a father in the British Army, was to set up an HIV/AIDS focused NGO.
NGO-dom's loss was one of the best things that have happened to contemporary Nepali music. Robin decided to use the power of the medium he knew best, and got together with a group of talented young musicians to form Robin \'n Looza. Through a clever mix of new, punchy takes on old classics such as Jati Maya and Chiso Chiso Hawama, as well as original material with strong, socially relevant lyrics, the band was an instant hit. Today they have slowly moved away from cover versions-their second album Adhunik Aanganma, and their forthcoming album, which will be out in May, have only Robin's own compositions.
The new album will be even more radical than their earlier works-the music is more "aggressive", and the lyrics take on such holy cows as the separation of religion from community life and the widespread-and increasing-drug use in urban Nepal. "What our songs do," says the 38-year-old, "is call it like we see it-and then suggest ways of dealing with all the craziness."