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Profile | Mukti N Revival

While rock and pop music continues to dominate the music culture in Nepal, Mukti and his several bands of brothers, has consistently kept blues music alive in Nepal for more than 20 years, introducing it to several generations. The man has seen bands come and go and the concert scene change from bustling city hall shows and street alleys to filled up open arenas to small venues with just enough audience to keep the show alive. Mukti himself has transformed from a boy with dreams of being in a rock band to forming some of Kathmandu's biggest bands, to becoming a father and a businessman in Spain. This month we bring you an exclusive with Mukti and Revival, Nepal's premier blues band.

Mukti grew up listening to everything from the ethnic music of the Newar guthis and bahals to his older brother's guitaring and singing. "My older brother used to sing and play and after he was done he'd leave the guitar in the room. Then I'd pick it up and have a go at it," Mukti recalls. Soon after entering his adolescence, he formed a band with a group of friends, calling themselves Radium.

Radium


The early 1970s had seen bands like Hillocks, Melodies and Pakheys starting the rock and roll culture in Kathmandu. But it wasn't until Prism came about in 1978, that this new sub-culture firmly established itself in the capital city. Then in 1979 came a band whose front man would remain a key figure in Nepal's music industry for years to come.

Mukti Shakya, Niranjan, Bishnu and Suchandra formed Radium in 1979. The Mukti was the bassist for this band. "Back then there were no music shops like there are now," he says. So the boys pitched in money and took a trip to Calcutta, India to buy music instruments and PA equipments.

Although a bassist, Mukti got himself a custom made guitar from India. It didn't take long for the band to take off in the hotel circuit. Prism was a regular at Soaltee, and Radium scored the same at Sheraton Hotel [now Everest Hotel]. "For a while, our life was like what we saw and heard about," he says, in reference to the fame and the parties, and money, which for that time was a significant amount. But soon creative differences emerged in the band and Radium broke up. Mukti was focused on writing Nepali originals but their hotel stint required them to do Western covers.

Elegance


Soon after Radium, Mukti helped start his second band, Elegance (1982) with SUdesh, Raju and Bhanu Maan. It was in Elegance that Mukti first played the role of a lead guitarist in a band. Dekendra and Dev Rana also filled in on the drums in Elegance's latter days. Elegance felt more right for Mukti as the band shared a common vision of writing Nepali originals rather than play western covers. But the band emerged at a time when Kathmandu's young music listeners were being swept away by the music of Western acts like the Stones and Hendrix. Elegance was very concert oriented, so appealing to this audience with their Nepali originals wasn't an easy task. "The only hip Nepali singers during this time were Prem Dhoj Pradhan and Arun Thapa, so we'd always invite them to sing in between our concerts," he says. Mid 1980s also saw a growth in the number of rock bands in Nepal and Kathmandu Cats, Sting and Rhapsody had become well known in the city's live circuit. And the live circuit was a happening scene too. "We used to call the City Hall our home," Mukti laughs. City Hall was the choice of venue for all rock concerts and most of these rock shows were sold out before the show started. Elegance also did several full moon shows in Swayambhu.

Elegance lasted for almost six years during which they recorded a single and produced a homemade music video. The TV station, however, turned it down because it wasn't of adequate broadcast quality. Basanta Udayo from Mukti and Revival's first album Kalanki Ko Jam (2000) and Mero Maya from their second album Bujhai Deu (2003) were written during the Elegance days.

Mukti was preparing to move to Spain with his Spanish girlfriend Mary who he had met in 1982. The other band members got thinking about life and career too. "Now I hear singers are making a life out of music, buying bikes and cars after releasing an album. Things were different back then," he says. And so Elegance disbanded with the mutual understanding of having to support them selves financially and pursue careers. Mukti went to Spain with Mary and soon became a father there. SUdesh runs New Orleans in Thamel.

The Spanish Connection


Soon after moving, Mukti and Mary became parents. This also translated into in Mukti's first hiatus from music. The blues man turned into a businessman. "My father was a businessman and I grew up in that atmosphere, so I figured I could be a businessman too," he says laughing about his failed attempt. Three years after shuttling between KTM-Spain as a businessman he had packed up his ventures and got back to music, doing everything from busking on streets to jamming with bands every possible opportunity. It didn't take long for him to get an offer as a session musician in Spain and got a job as a professional musician. Being a session musician is of course very different from being a performing artist. "Sessions musicians might be able to make a living but rarely get the fame," he says. Spain is a country rich in festivals and carnivals and all of those require bands. Mukti got busy with this new job for three years before coming back to KTM. When he did, all the members of Elegance had already settled down in their new lives. While the streets were full of riots and protests in 1990, he stayed home trying his hand at recordings on his Tascam set and taking on some music production projects. Two years later he went back to Spain, returning to Nepal in 1992 with his Mary and their two sons.

Revival


"There was this bassist called Udesh. He had been urging me to start a band for a while," he recalls of those days. Mukti, Udesh, Sushil, and Navin then formed the first Revival. It was Daniel Karthak who suggested that the band's name should be Mukti and Revival since the band is always being revived with new members with Mukti being the only consistent front man. Daniel himself played the bass for Revival after Udesh left the band. He has since played with a host of leading musicians and artists, more recently with Nepathya, before re-joining Exit.

Mukti and Revival was in its second year when Sushil had to leave for Canada on work and Mukti himself got busy with getting married and building a house for the family. It also felt like everyone needed a break too. "It was tiring, playing in the hotels, then the concerts that would always end with some khukuri fight," he sighs.

In 1996, the first Mukti and Revival played their last show together in Basantapur. This was also when Mukti met Newaz, who was the opening act. "This band had a style like mine," he says, referring to Newaz's blues sound. When the vocalist of Newaz left for Australia, the remaining band members morphed into the new Revival, which has been together since. The line up is Roshan, Upendra, Rabindra and now Mary. In 2000, Mukti and Revival finally released their highly anticipated debut album Kalanki Ko Jam and it became an instant hit. So was Mukti surprised? "Surprised and very happy! What we ad tried so many years ago finally worked," he says laughing. Sushil is now back from Canada and runs Him latté Café in Thamel and performs every Friday night with his band Eternity, which also features Sunit [Looza] and Roshan [Revival]. Revival member Binod is currently in Holland and just became father to a daughter. He is also planning to come back to KTM soon to record new materials.

Mukti and Revival's second album Bhujhai Deu sounds distinctly different from their first studio effort. "I like to try new sounds keeping blues as the base," he explains. "And of course, the studio engineer also has a hand in how it ends up sounding." The first album was recorded in Namaste Studio with Hem as the studio engineer and the second was recorded at BMI Records with Iman Shah as the studio engineer as well as guest guitarist on a few songs. It is no surprise then that the second album has an edgier rock sound compared to the first.

Transit Blues


Mukti went back to Spain with his family soon after the band released their first album. But since then he has been visiting Nepal for a few months every year. It was during his visit in 2002 that he recorded Bujhai Deu. After its release in Jan 2003, Mukti headed back to Spain. "I haven't even seen the music video for Bujhai Deu, yet," he says laughing. There were three singles and videos and released from the album. This time around, Mukti has come to Nepal not for music, but for a more cultural reason - the Samyak Mahadan, a major Buddhist festival that takes place every 12 years.

Mukti's father has been the organizing committee's chairman for 48 years now, and for the second time Mukti worked as the festival's chief co-coordinator. "I came here for a different reason altogether so I wasn't planning on recording anything," he admits. But Roshan had already arranged for a concert in Shilong for 6 Feb. and so Mukti's stay in KTM extended by more than 15 days. "Since I am going to be here, I figured the band might as well record a few songs." Mukti is also fronting a blues trio called Mn'M in Spain. "We're not that famous in the whole of Spain, but most people around the town where we live know that the 'Nepali guitarist' is me," he says smiling. Mn'M has been interviewed on several radio stations, TV channels and newspapers in and around Mary's hometown.

The Recent line up has lasted for almost 10 years now, with Mary helping out with piano more recently. The blues brothers of Nepal remain dedicated to keeping blues alive although the live concert scene has been disappointing. Mukti and Revival recorded new songs at BMI on 30 and 31 Jan, days before the band leave for a Shillong tour, the band's first international concert. The band also performed for a charity cause at the WAVEvent Music For Humanity. Mukti will soon go back to Spain for at least a year while members of the Revival will keep busy with other projects and day jobs. Apart from a band called Nekhvam, there isn't any other known blues band that has broken through in the concert scene in Nepal. The upcoming band scene has changed drastically through the last five years, and jazz has broken through to the mainstream. As for blues, its taken time and we've gotten this far, we can only hope for more than just a revival.

Source: WaveMag.com.np

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