Nepali Times
Music to our ears

The Music Institute of Kathmandu (MIK) had a phoenix like beginning: it rose from the ashes of Elite's Co-ed music department, one that Cadenza drummer and frontman, Navin Chhettri (top, left), has been involved with as a music teacher for the past few years. With a 15-member faculty and a fully equipped music department, Elite's had one of the best music programs for students in the Valley. With the school on the verge of closure, Navin saw an opportunity to realise a project that is close to his heart.

"MIK has been a dream for a long time," he says. Still in the planning stages, Navin has worked to bring together the former teachers of Elite's music department and his fellow musicians to teach everything from rock to jazz. The faculty also includes Nepali classical musicians like Robin Lal who plays the tabla, the vocalist Gurudev and Santosh Bhakt who will teach the ishraj.

Affiliated to the Trinity College of London, 25 percent of the profits from Jazzmzandu 2003 has been earmarked for MIK by Chhedup Bomzan of Upstairs Ideas, the promotion agency behind the jazz festival and incidently, Cadenza's manager. He confessed the profits from last year's festival were paltry but contributing from that was symbolic of their commitment towards creating a space for Nepali musicians. "Navin, Susan (co-ordinator of Jazzmandu) and I always wanted to promote jazz in Nepal and MIK will be a place not only for learning the ABC's but more importantly, also for taking musicians to that next level," says Chhedup.

The institute will start with music clinics headed by some of the international artists at Jazzmandu. The formal program is scheduled to begin in April with certificate courses that run from six months to a full year as well as short crash courses. Initially, it will operate from the Elite music department after school hours before moving to another premise. Navin hopes this will encourage people, old and young, to fit music into their lives. "I am sceptical about the response," he says, "because people here look upon music as a hobby. Those who come to us may not be as committed to the craft as I would like."

Dedication and passion is something MIK will definitely be able to inspire judging from the talented pool of Navin's former students. Some, like Axata Singh (top, right), have already recorded singles. She was nominated for the Best Female Vocal Performance this year at the HITS FM Music Awards and has won the Golden Voice Award at the inter-school Green Music Festival in 1997 and 1998. His other students currently in the pursuit of music stardom include Asish Ghimire of Catch 22 who has a regular gig at Rum Doodle in Thamel, and Gaurab Basnet, keyboardist of rock band Monkey Temple.

The cream of the old Elite's music class and the new MIK crop will be performing at Bom Shiva Day Out on 1 March at Gokarna. It's just the kind of incentive that Nepali youth need to believe that music can be a vocation.

Sessions conducted by some Jazzmandu musicians including Natalie Williams and Nick Aggs will be held on 11.30 AM from 4 March at the American Centre in Gyaneshwor. For details call 427527.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)