A group of musicians from around Britain broke a world record this week by playing music continuously for 44 hours in Central London in a fundraising drive to help Nepali children.
Such record-breaking events may not be special in a country where a Scottish band set the longest record by playing for 42 hours and 38 minutes last year, but this year's longest gig record will go to raise money to build a shelter for conflict-impacted children in Nepal.
At the trendy Soho Lounge (www.thesoholounge.co.uk ) in London's famous West End the band composed of three women and two men were allowed 10 minute breaks every eight hours. When I visited, they had just crossed 24 hours and Craig Mitchell was singing his own composition, 'Crush your heart and hope to die/There is million and one thing you can try/ How long now.?'
"Another 20 hours," I muttered. The musicians looked tired, sleepy and, at times, closed their eyes for several minutes as they played mostly soft and soothing numbers from the Beatles, Cold Play, George Michael, John Lennon and many others.
Someone asked, "Are you alive?"
"Just." replied front man Oz Bayldon of the band, The Hidden.
It was Oz who felt the urge to do something for the children in Nepal after he travelled to Kathmandu in 2002. He was both shocked and inspired when several street children flocked around him begging him to buy them something to eat. "I felt there were more important things in life than just playing music," he recalls.
Back in London, Oz with his musician friends formed a charity, Nepal Balbalika Trust (NBT), with the aim of building a self-sufficient shelter for destitute children. Since the establishment of the charity in 2004, Oz and his group have performed dozens of gigs in and around London to raise funds.
This week's longest gig is a prelude to set another Guinness record breaker for the World's Highest Gig (www.theworldshighestgig.com) in October 2005. This will take place just above Everest base camp at 5,545 meters.
To build the shelter, NBT will work with HELP NEPAL Network (HeNN) www.helpnepal.net, a global charity run by Nepalis and friends of Nepal, which, incidentally, has made the conflict impacted children of Nepal a priority target group for 2006.
HeNN has already reached an agreement with a school in Dhulikhel to secure land for the construction of the shelter. Apart from providing logistical support to NBT, the network, through its own fundraising efforts is planning to help grassroot level organisations which have demonstrated exemplary commitment in helping the conflict affected children .
With nearly a dozen chapters around the world, including registered groups in Australia, America, Britain and Nepal, the network has also developed a program called Bhai-Bahini to support children affected by the conflict. A child of Nepali origin or any child in the world will support another child who has been impacted by the conflict in Nepal until they become capable of living their own lives and supporting themselves financially.
HeNN-USA's Muna Joshi, the chief coordinator of the Bhai-Bahini program, says: "We hope this will help children develop an affinity with Nepal, develop a sense of giving at an early age and see and show how young individuals can make a difference and nurture a future."
HeNN is completely voluntary with no overheads and all funds raised go directly to the welfare of the children. The cost of a small administrative office in Kathmandu is sponsored by generous Nepali businessmen.
President of HeNN-USA, Mabi Singh, says: "If non-Nepalis can do such difficult things to support Nepali children, it becomes a moral obligation for us Nepalis around the world to do something as well. We can't just sit and complain, we must act."
Rabindra Mishra is the founding chairperson of HELP NEPAL Network [email protected]