Nepali Times
Nepal One
Singing for Nepal


Here I am amidst the rolling hills of Okhaldhunga after walking along the scenic Sun Kosi. We left the political tumult of Kathmandu two weeks ago, and the capital seems far away: not just in terms of distance, but also in the everyday concerns of ordinary Nepalis.

Every village we pass through, every fellow traveller we meet on the trails, the concerns are about day to day needs: food, fodder, firewood. This is the essence of real Nepal, here in these hills that were made famous by the lyrics of Siddhicharan Shrestha, my revered guru.

Among my favourite songs is the famous poem written 50 years ago by Siddhicharan (Kyaru yo desh ko nimitta kyaru) that has been rendered to music by the very talented Nhyoo Bajracharya and sung with passion and verve by Yogeshwar Amatya. The simple music video by Bhusan Dahal makes it a creation that gives me goose pimples every time I watch it. Siddhicharan was inspired by these hills, forests and rivers of eastern Nepal by uncomplicated people with simple needs, but with a burning desire to contribute to society and make the country strong.

Every step I take on the ups and downs of the trails as we cross over from Okhaldhunga into Bhojpur, Siddhicharan's words resonate in my head, making me long for an idyllic, peaceful and socially just Nepal that he yearned for, a Nepal where everyone has an equal opportunity to excel, and be proud citizen of this country.

I am looking forward to meeting Shyam Tamot in Bhojpur, the writer and composer of the song Gaun Gaun Bata Utha. Nepal's communists adopted the song as their liberation anthem, but I sing it in my concerts because I think it is everyone's song.

Among my more recent songs is Mero Desh written by Bikram Subba, and it is the title song of Nepathya's eighth album. Mero Desh was later turned into a video also by Bhusan Dahal. The video featured artist David Douglas painting a flag of Nepal in his studio.

His name may sound European, but David is a Nepali through and through.

When we were shooting the video it was the day of Saraswati Puja, and David was reluctant to paint on a day that is dedicated to the Goddess of Knowledge, whom he respects.

In the studio, poet Bikram Subba's poetry came alive with the music and the artist's brush that accompanied it. It was also an amalgam of the melting pot that is Nepal: a Limbu, a Gurung and a Chhetri working with a Nepali with a western name.

In my two decades of being the leader of the folk rock band, Nepathya, I have composed and sung songs written by a Gaine, a Damai, a Lepcha, a Rai, a Brahmin, a Magar, a Chhetri, a Newar, a Tamang, a Gurung and many more. No one discriminated against me because of my ethnicity, and I didn't say I only wanted to sing songs from my particular ethnic group.

If Bikram Subba had written his poem in Limbu, I would not have been able to sing it. What brings us, binds us, and give us identity is the Nepali language. We can communicate across Nepal's incredible diversity because of this language. This is not to undermine the importance of our rich linguistic and cultural heritages, but to celebrate both our motherland's tongue as well as our mother tongues.

But suddenly 'unity' and 'nationalism' have become bad words. Who benefits from undermining Nepali nationalism and unity? Not us Nepalis. My songs have always looked for those links that bind us together as a nation, across ethnic and linguistic lines, whether we live in the Himal, Pahad or Tarai. I use subtle lyrics by poets from Nepal's diverse ethnicities, melding them with the melodies representing the nation's cultures and the heartbeat of our drums.

There are two types of nationalistic songs in Nepal. The first in which we celebrate a hollow, insecure nationalism that praises the bravery and sacrifices of our ancestors and extols the virtues of the land of the danphe and monal, Everest and Lumbini. Then there are the songs that evoke a deep emotional attachment to our roots, and the land of our birth.

I tend to sing the second type of songs. Ones in which up on stage I do not have to prove I am Nepali and I do not need to drape myself in the double triangle. I am singing for Nepal, and Nepal sings with me.


Yogeshwar Amatya's Kyaru Yo Desh

Shyam Tamot's Gaun Gaun Bata Utha

Nepathya's Mero Desh

1. Sanjay Shrestha
I really like and appreciate the way Amrit Gurung has tried to express his feelings for our country Nepal and  for the unity of all nepali people despite of our ethnic division. Siddhicharan's words inspires not only Amrit Gurung but all nepali living anywhere in this planet and will do so for don't know how many generations to come. But, I don't agree with Amrit Gurung's veiw when he says "There are two types of nationalistic songs in Nepal". I think everybody feels and thinks differently from each other and expresses them differently as well. Just because Amrit Gurung thinks they are hollow does not mean they are hollw.

2. abc
Amrit, we all get it where you're trying to come from but the point is without correcting historical injustice the meaning of unity and nationalism is pointless. only the dominant groups benefit. no society can thrive on such a superficial foundation. it has destroyed the marginalized by never letting them achieve their potential and it also destroyed the privileged making them lazy and incompetent because of false entitlement. As a result the whole nation suffers - too many taboos, too many baggage to allow free minded, competitive, progressive ideas.

Unfortunately because of the dominant groups' unrelenting attitude the whole nation has been too polarized, radicalized, highly diminishing any chance of a reasonable dialogue.

Anyway we all love your songs, you are one of the threads that still bind us through your beautiful songs. All the best for your new album.

3. bypasser
@ abc
What you name historical injustice is just a lame excuse for whatever failures you have experienced in your life and for some reason you don't want to accept your incompetencies but blame others.All around the world there is something called victor's justice.Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered this country and given that day and age,it's hardly surprising he promoted his own language and culture especially since people of your school are still trying to impose their own culture and way of thinking over others for whatever reason.Nobody disagrees that there has been injustice.Nothing is perfect and even in so called the most democratic country of this world, a significant proportion of the population were treated as slaves and still face discrimination in a lot of ways.But seeking compensation for past is not the way forward for one simple reason,where do we start?How many centuries do we go back to rectify things now,that's simply imposssible.The only way forward is gve everyone equal oppurtnity,respect everyone's way of life and build a better future.But some people are so much stuck in the past that they just can't think ahead  and in this sceario,I see the future of this country very bleak

4. Jan
In Amrit Gurung's writing I find a rare voice of compassion and rationality, lacking in the extreme discours coming from the cynic couch potatos in Kathmandu. Amrit Gurung is doing the work of the traditional tourbadour, travelling the country and bringing the voice of the silent majorities to the notice of those who want to take Nepal to violent ethnic conflict similar to the one in my own country. Nepal is fortunate to have many who think like Amrrit Gurung. 

5. Purba Rai
Thank you Amrit Dai for being the voice of hope and reason in a country that seems to have gone mad. Nepal's Bahun leaders and Janjati politicians have gone mad, it is time for people like you to lead this country.

6. Rabin
Unlike a comment above, I think Amrit is brave and honest when he criticises the "hollow" and "articifical" nationalism. It was the manufactured patriotism of Mahendra Path and the Pacnhayat that led to exclusion which the poltiicians are now trying to feed off. Nepal's unifying factor is now the diversity that Amrit Gurung is celebrating.

7. Sujin Lohorung
Salute Amrit mention than that!

8. saran
its nice to talk about the patroitism and love towards the country..i agree..every one agree on it. people want unity ..but don't make it in wrong sense by going in federalism one will loose it...its baseless and said the truth we need to sing the songs  that evoke a deep emotional attachment to our roots, and the land of our birth.

9. nagarik

sahi bhannu bhayo amrit ji tapai le...yaha unity ko kura garyo vanye bahunbadi bhanchhan...aafno respect khojne le arka lai ni respect dinuparchha bhanne jailay samma bujdainam hami sabai andhakar ma dhakelirahuncham...we need people like you...not like prachanda, makune, sushil,ramchandra poudel, aangkaji sherpa...


10. abhishek gurung
Hearing amrit's rendition of "binti cha mero ..euta chithi kori pathaideu" never tires me. amrit has been a champion of the folk songs hence nepathya have been aptly named a folk rock band. 
 as far as i understand, amrit wants us to believe that the people on the street asking for similar rights are against "unity" and "nationalism", PLEASE refrain from saying "unity" and "nationalism" are bad. The people on the street are never against integrity, "unity" and "nationalism", they are as nationalistic as YOU are and some could be more than you. They are on the street seeking justice to the age old discrimination. There is no denying that Nepali language is common binding factor. The people on the street duly recognises that but at the same time ask for a regime to recognise their ethnic language and culture too.
  and your terming a set of songs "hollow" make your entire article sound hollow. some of them may be in the praise of feudalistic regimes but they do tend to evoke a sense of being a nepali. now it becomes your moral obligation to ask for equal rights and justice for the downtrodden people you see on your various trips.  please donot stand on the way of change when you could possibly bring about that change. to be a nepali you need to think nepali be nepali act nepali..not just write your name as xyz  nepali...
thank you for "binti cha mero "...

11. B

I agree slightly with Amrit Gurung on the two traditions of music from Nepal. Yes, the first group consists of those that only sing about Nepal's history, its mountains, and past glories. I think the second groups consists of those that constantly work to enrich Nepali music itself by building bridges between the various traditions of music in this country. Nepathya obviously is one of the best examples. Another group that does this is Kutumba. Here are three clips I found on the internet about how the band goes about learning and teaching about various Nepali musical traditions:




And here is one example of the delightful music (starts at 01:00) that emerges from the confluence of these various traditions and the sheer talent of the band members.

This music is not just preservation, it is innovation. It learns from the past but doesn't bind itself to it. Rather it points to a joyous future.

12. Hem Thapa

"But suddenly 'unity' and 'nationalism' have become bad words. Who benefits from undermining Nepali nationalism and unity? Not us Nepalis." You have put it very well, Amrit ji, this is exactly wht I have felt. This article should be translated into Nepali and printed in Himal and other dailies. Aba ta "samajik sadbhav" bhanne harulai pani bahunbad ladna khojeko bhanna thale! Kato yug ayeko Nepalma

13. b
i have listeaned for long since the nepathya as a group started to sing. although it was a folk song "chari maryo sisayiko golelae" nepathya made the song come in limelight and soon it became most sung in household...even then when there was no talk of ethnicity and we were all tied up in harmony amrit reflects through song the beauty of cultural diversity...   

14. Rishav
Amrit Gurung is a true LEGEND of our country!!!

15. Gheo Chaku Naran
Either you are with us or you are against us.-the Maoist Supremo says in such language.
,when he tries to delibarate onfedaralism and on ethnic identity based one.
You are either supporting federalism or opposing one,he tries to divide us all into two camps.
But the group are three, not two.
Supporting ethnic( racial) federalism,
supporting federalism but not ethnic (race based) ones,
supporting unitary system.
The parties, civil societies ,and even impatial meedias have failed to explain this difference in sufficient ways to the geneeral public.

16. SL
Amrit dai, I have always been impressed by your songs, especially those songs which delivers the essence of true Nepal, which represents the distant parts, never tiring ups & downs of our deurali bhanjyang & beautiful folk songs that echoes around the pure himalayan water. It takes us to the calmness & sincerity of our motherland which our ancestors have enjoyed.  Though your song usually sings about love, nature, rejoicement, but like you have said it evokes a deep emotional attachment to our roots,
and the land of our birth.
But along with that, we shouldn't  forget whats really like out there, the pain & hardship of our fellow countrymen behind those beautiful
tunes we all rejoice. What I feel is just waving flag & singing about unity isn't doing any good, we can only trigger real unity & nationalism in people if there is equality & eventually respect between us, otherwise those acts will just be mere fulfillment of one own desire that one has done something for the country, pretty much ignoring our actual pursuit. So for that, Gaun Gaun Bata Utha is just the song.

17. Mahen
Amrit Gurung is right in pointing out the Panchayat era's manufactured nationalism and forced unity of Nepal along symbols defined by rulers. Nepal's real unity lies in its cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity. There is no going back to the danfe, monal, daura suruwal brand of nationalism.

18. 7
There are two sides to a coin, one that faces you and the other that faces your palm. Prithivi Narayan Shah united Nepal, but while doing so, he cut off noses and ears of the locals of Kathmandu. The urban areas are just as much a part of Nepal as the rural ones. Just because their lives revolve around simplicity doesn't necessarily imply that is the right one.  

19. santosh
good article ...but unity does not means when one is suffering and other all the songs of nepathaya..they are true nepali oriented..!!!

20. pemba
We talk about unity and nationalism but how can a country be united?Ethnic communities doesn't want to break this country but when enthnic communities raise their voice about ethnic rights the so called ruling class calls them traitor or trying to divide country.Amrit Gurung may be  trying to spread language of unity with his song but until and unless he dosen't know his rights about ethnicity than I suggest that he change his surname to Nepali from Gurung.His example is just about music industry and he must look with broad eyes where ethnic communities are suffereing.Every Gurung is Nepali but every Nepali is not Gurung.If equal rights is guaranteed through federalsim then there's no doubt that there will be unity in diversity.I'm sherpa and am Nepali but i do have my own culture and tradition which I want to preserve.To achieve equality we need ethnicity based federalism which brings unity and nationalism.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)