Nepali Times
"Leave our schools alone"

Halfway through the final concert of the Nepathya Sangeet Yatra at the BICC last Saturday, the audience decided it wasn't going to sit through the performance.

Nearly a thousand people were on their feet to dance, wave, clap and sing along with Resham, Bhedako Oon, and the band's other hits. When Amrit Gurung lead his band into its rendition of Rato ra Chandra Surya, the audience, made up mostly of school and college students, decided to move into the aisles to join at the top of their lungs the song that many regard as Nepal's alternative national anthem.

Nepathya's four-week, 15-concert tour across the length and breadth of Nepal had the theme 'Education for Peace'. And everywhere they performed, it was to jam-packed auditoriums of young Nepalis eager to have fun and contribute to the cause of peace.

"The audience is even more enthusiastic outside Kathmandu. In Chitwan, they brought flags and waved candles in the audience. In Pokhara, the audience knew every song by heart and sang so loud I had a hard time keeping in tune," a visibly exhausted Amrit Gurung told us. In Damak, the temperature inside the hall rose to nearly 40 degrees and the exhausted band had to shorten the performance because there was serious danger of dehydration.

The Kathmandu concert began with a brief video of the concert tour with shots of the band's bus negotiating destroyed bridges and the charred hulks of buses burnt by the Maoists. In the background was the band's haunting peace ballad, Rangeen Chara. There were very few dry eyes in the audience.

Between songs, Amrit Gurung made an impassioned plea to the warring sides to leave the schools alone. "I call on everyone to keep politics and weapons out of schools. This is where we nurture our nation's future, schools belong to children," Gurung would say, only to be drowned out by sustained cheers of approval.

Money raised from ticket sales was donated to schools in the cities where performances took place. Proceeds from the Kathmandu concerts went to Madan Memorial School and Bijay Smarak. Uniformed children from both schools were at the BICC on Friday and Saturday, and were the most enthusiastic fans, often spilling out into the aisles to dance.

This is Nepathya's second concert for peace in the past two years. This year, it braved five days of Nepal bandas and eight days of blockades in various districts, but the tour did not stop. The only concert that had to be cancelled was in Nepalganj because of a banda called by the Maoists.

"In most places, the audience was seeing an international class concert for the first time, with fabulous sound, special effects, and a background live video of the audience to make them more interactive, and they loved it," recalls Arpan Sharma event nepa~laya, the management group that organised the shows.

In most cities, local FM stations broadcast the entire concert live, so the audience was much larger than the fans who thronged to see Nepathya perform.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)