Nepali Times
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World-class debut

Album: Kalakarmi
Artist: Hari Maharjan
Project Distributor: Music Nepal
Price: Rs 300

Confession, first off. Even before laying my hands on Kalakarmi, I'd declared on numerous occasions that Hari Maharjan is 'the best guitarist in Nepal'. So even if a whole succession of Thamel music shops seemed bemused by my request for the Hari Maharjan Project's debut album ("Ko? Naamai sunyaa chaina..."), I expected much.

I wasn't disappointed. And you don't have to be a bedroom guitarist to lock into Kalakarmi, either. Along with Rizu Tuladhar (bass), Daniel Rasaily (drums/percussion) and Nawaraj Gurung (tabla), Hari has created a sound that fuses and transcends the genres he draws on, and promises to grant him international critical acclaim, if not fame and fortune.

Those accustomed to Hari's pyrotechnics on the electric guitar at live venues across town may have expected more obvious fireworks, and simply listening to Kalakarmi they may also miss the visibly dynamic synergy of Rizu and Daniel, an essential component of the trio that plays live on Hari Maharjan Project (HMP). But they are missing the point. Hari's inspired, clean-toned, jazz-rock riffs, alternately elongated and shredded to perfection, are spread over nine instrumental tracks that reward repeated listening.

The most accessible tracks on Kalakarmi are already a staple of HMP's live performances. Never gonna drink and drive again and Soul in you are simply phenomenal world-class tunes. Both boast amazing, complex sets of crunchy, funky riffs, and you may well find yourself humming the unorthodox melodies the day after. Bass and percussion are in perfect sync here, with Hari surfing the beats. But it's not all spacey, funky jazz. There are Shakti-esque moments in both Big Brother and the title track Kalakarmi, and the galloping Chyante Ghoda evokes Mustang in more ways than one.

Throughout, while remaining essentially a jazz album, Kalakarmi showcases HMP's fluency in rock, blues and funk. What sets their debut apart from a host of high-minded modern jazz fusion is the uncontrived, organic nature of the compositions, which are laced through with mostly subtle references to Nepali musical cultures. The beautiful melody in Raktika, for instance, brings one in mind of a nursery rhyme – or is it a Newari tune?

Kalakarmi is an unabashedly serious debut. It won't gain HMP the flag-waving devotion his former bandmates in Nepathya enjoy, not least because it's wholly instrumental and, well, jazz. If you like a rousing chorus, Kalakarmi might seem like an exercise in guitar noodling. But the very fact that it's accessible to non-Nepali speakers sparks hope that with robust marketing and further experimentation with other sounds and artists across Nepal, HMP may well become the first Nepali band to truly represent us on the global stage.

Rabi Thapa

Model Dhulikhel, RUBEENA MAHATO
Solving mysterious fevers, DHANVANTARI by BUDDHA BASNYAT, MD
Collecting rain

1. Sargam
I really appreciate Rabi's enthusiasm and he has this talent to transmit the same to all of us who are music lovers.

Fair enough, to be in the thick of it, my penchant for instrumental music and a draw for classical tunes supersede my timidity for an atavistic throwback.

But, as I am very curious by nature I'd have so much longed for an instrumental play with Nepalese way of  'Madal' beats with Bansuri performance on a well-known pop song by Katie Melua: 'So kiss me'.

If Rabi could find somebody to perform this world famous tune and diffuse the same without splurging enormously via Youtube I'd be highly grateful to him.

Thanks a bunch!?!

2. Satya Nepali

Why is it called a "project"? Is that actually the name of the band? Or did they just stick it in there for the first album to denote the album's quite distinct sound - almost like an experiment?

Agree with Rabi Thapa that it's a really cool album. Feels good that there're Nepali daju-bhais out there producing good stuff like this!

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)